Tag Archives: Enda Kenny

News Ireland as told by Donie

Tuesday 13th June 2017

Enda Kenny steps down as Taoiseach after forty two years in politics 

‘This has never been about me but always about the challenges the people of our country face’

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An emotional Enda Kenny has made his final address to the Dáil as Taoiseach, saying he was the first to acknowledge that he had not got everything right.

“But I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed was in the best interests of the Irish people,” he added.

He thanked his colleagues in Government and the contribution of Fianna Fáil under leader Micheál Martin.

He had been truly blessed, he said, to lead the country and he thanked the people of Ireland and Mayo.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny leaving Government buildings to go to Áras an Uachtaráin to submit his resignation to President Michael D Higgins.

“I really do believe politics is work worth doing, a noble profession,” he added.

Flanked by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan who will also stand down, Mr Kenny’s successor Leo Varadkar, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Health Simon Harris, the Taoiseach informed the Dáil at 2pm he would be going later to Áras an Uachtaráin to submit his resignation to President Michael D Higgins.

He formally handed in in his letter on Tuesday evening.

During his speech in the Dáil, he daid it was a privilege and a pleasure to lead Fine Gael and wished everybody good health in dealing with the challenges ahead.

He quoted Michael Davitt wishing “fond thoughts” and “fullest forgiveness”.

He said he hoped he had made a modest contribution to making Ireland better as envisaged by Davitt.

Mr Kenny then sat down, visibly emotional, to applause from all sides of the House.

Before the Taoiseach offered his resignation, the Dáil stood for the prayer in Irish and English, but there was some confusion when a number of TDs started to sit down during the 30 seconds of meditation.

Members of Mr Kenny’s family sat in the distinguished visitors gallery, including his wife Fionnuala O’Kelly, son Ferdia, his brother Kieran, his personal assistant Sarah Moran and chief of staff Mark Kennelly.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described him as “an Irish patriot and an Irish democrat”. Throughout his time in elected office and in government he had been a proud representative of his community, political tradition and country.

Martin tribute

Mr Martin also said Mr Kenny had managed events so that they have proceeded at his desired pace. “He has ensured that those who were stalking the corridors in search of journalists to brief against him have been obliged to issue lengthy statements describing him as the greatest Irishman since Brian Boru”.

The Fianna Fáil leader said “the mischievous enjoyment he has taken in this has been a genuine joy to behold”.

Enda Kenny acknowledges the applause from TDs in the Dáil following his final speech as Taoiseach.

Mr Martin joked it was a “great burden” for Mr Kenny that Mayo had failed to win the Sam Maguire during his time in office.

He said the Taoiseach was courageous when he agreed to take over the leadership of his party when it was at such a low ebb in 2002. He was courageous when he decisively faced down those who challenged him and then went on to win the 2011 general election.

But most of all it was “incredibly courageous to give your heart and soul to working on your job in Government knowing Michael Ring was back in Mayo stealing your votes”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said his party and Fine Gael did not agree on many issues but “I always found Enda to be friendly on a personal level. Probably the best leader Fine Gael ever had.”

He said the Taoiseach’s departure from office would be a big change for his family.

“Let me say I will miss you. I will miss your entertaining tales of meetings you have had and meetings you have not had and recollections of people you have met along the way, like the man with the two pints in one hand.”

Mr Adams said he would “miss your optimistic energy”, his jizz, sense of humour and his ability to field questions without giving a clue about his view on the question he was actually asked.

Forty-two years was a long time in the House and he deserved his time out. He also wished Minister for Finance Michael Noonan well in his retirement as a Minister.

Mr Adams said there had been successes including the success of the same-sex marriage referendum. But he said said there had also been abject failures, including the Taoiseach’s consistent failure to recognise the State of Palestine, “the squandering of the biggest mandate in the history of the State as the Fine Gael-Labour Government reneged on election promises, kowtowed to the elites in the EU and the banking and finance sectors, and saddled the people of this State with a debt of €65 billion”.

He said another great failing “has been a clear lack of affinity with the North, one of the deepest problems facing the political system here, and a clear lack of consistent strategic engagement with the process of change that is under way on this island”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny waves to wellwishers as he leaves Government Buildings to go to Áras an Uachtaráin to resign on Tuesday.

Party backbencher

Mr Kenny stands down after six years as the longest serving Fine Gael Taoiseach and the first to secure a second consecutive term in government for the party.

He now becomes a party backbencher until the next general election when he is expected to retire as a TD.

The Taoiseach is also father of the House as the longest serving TD with 42 years in the Dáil. He was first elected in 1975 in a byelection following the death of his father Henry and fought another 12 elections in his Dáil tenure.

He served three years as a cabinet minister, holding the tourism and trade portfolio in the 1994 to 1997 rainbow coalition.

He also served for a year as minister of state for education and for labour from February 1986 to March 1987.

Mr Kenny took over from Michael Noonan as party leader in 2002 after a disastrous general election for the party and in 2007 the party’s numbers in the Dáil went from 32 to 51 TDs.

In the 2011 general election at the height of the economic recession, Fine Gael secured 76 seats, the most in the party’s history, under his leadership.

For the first time Fine Gael was the largest party in the Dáil and Mr Kenny became the State’s 13th Taoiseach.

AIB secures likely buyers for all of IPO stake

Shares in bank plunge as speculative investors digest price range for 28.8% being offered

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At one stage, AIB was notionally Europe’s fifth-largest bank by market value.

Investment banks and brokers working on AIB’s upcoming flotation have secured enough demand to cover the maximum 28.8% stake the Government plans to sell in the coming weeks, according to market sources.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said the fact that the order book has been covered is “in line with expectations and shows that there’s good investor interest” in the deal.

Crucially, the initial orders fall within the range of between €3.90 to €4.90 per share that the Government announced as the expected initial public offering price range on Monday evening.

However, the ultimate success of the IPO, due to price around June 23rd, will depend on the extent to which the share sale has been oversubscribed and the type of investors it attracts. AIB’s chief executive Bernard Byrne has set his sights on mainly attracting fund managers with a long-term perspective, rather than hedge funds, who might be willing to pay more but would only have a short-term interest in the bank.

The deal is being led by Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Davy, with Goodbody Stockbrokers, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and UBS also on the team.

Shares plunge last Tuesday

Meanwhile, shares in AIB plunged by more than 28% on the junior market in Dublin on Tuesday morning as investors digested the expected price range. By late trading, the drop had reduced, but shares were still almost 14 per cent lower at €5.60.

Many small, speculative investors had ignored repeated warnings from the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in recent few years that AIB’s stock – of which only 0.2% remained tradable after the State seized the bank in 2010 – had been overvalued amid thin trading volumes.

While the shares spiked late last month at €9.20, the Department of Finance revealed on Monday that it sees €4.90 per share as the top of its likely IPO range. This implies a value of between €10.6 billion and €13.2 billion for the bank.

The overvaluation of AIB first emerged in August 2011 when investors ignored a surge in the number of shares in issuance as taxpayers pumped the final amount of a total €20.8 billion rescue of the bank during the crisis.

At one stage, the bank was notionally Europe’s fifth-largest bank by market value, at over €60 billion, even as it was posting record losses. That was equivalent to nearly the State’s entire €64 billion bill for saving the banking system during the crisis and the €67.5 billion international credit line the Government was forced to accept in 2010 .

Being overweight, not just obese, carries a lot of serious health risks

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Excess weight can trigger a lot of killer diseases.

“Four million people died in 2015 as a result of being too tubby, struck by cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other killer conditions,” reports now show?

This is based on a global study that looked at how the proportion of people who are overweight and obese has changed over time. This was determined by recording body mass index (BMI), where a BMI of 25-29.9 means being overweight and 30 or above is being obese.

Researchers then assessed the link between having an unhealthy BMI and health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

It found that, despite public health efforts, obesity is on the rise in almost every country and in both adults and children. Prevalence has doubled in most countries over the past 30 years. Researchers also estimated that having a high BMI accounted for 4 million deaths globally, 40% of which occurred in people who were overweight but not yet obese.

This demonstrates that being overweight may almost be as risky to health as being obese. The rate of increase in obesity was also greater in children, showing the need for interventions to halt and reverse this trend to avoid future disease and deaths.

What is considered a healthy weight – BMI 20 to 25 – was unsurprisingly found to be the category with the lowest health risk. The best way to obtain and maintain a healthy BMI is to eat a healthy calorie-restricted diet and exercise regularly; two concepts that are at the core of the NHS Weight Loss Plan.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from a wide range of global institutions and universities, but was led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE), based at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The research was published in the peer-reviewed The New England Journal of Medicine on an open-access basis, which means it is free to read online (PDF, 2.3Mb).

A surprising key finding, as the BBC reported, is that “of the 4 million deaths attributed to being overweight in 2015, nearly 40% were not considered clinically obese”. The BBC accurately explains how merely being overweight, and not just obese, can increase risk of death.

What kind of research was this?

This was a review and report of evidence from around the world that looked at how the prevalence of being overweight and obese has changed over time. The researchers then looked at how being overweight affects the risk of various health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease and death.

Gathering high quality data from across many studies over time is the best way to see whether prevalence has changed and to see which health conditions are most strongly related to high body mass index (BMI). However, it is difficult to know how big a role BMI plays in raising your risk of certain health conditions, as other factors also have an influence.

What did the research involve?

The researchers analysed data from 68.5 million people from 195 countries looking at the burden of disease related to BMI between 1990 and 2015, and according to age, sex, and country. They looked at both children and adults.

Disease burden was defined as deaths and disability-adjusted life years (accounting for years of life lost or lived with disability) due to high BMI.

Information on adult BMI was provided by 1,276 unique sources from 176 countries, and 1,211 sources from 173 countries provided data on children’s BMI.

For adults, “overweight” was defined as a BMI between 25 and 29 and “obese” was 30 or above. In children, the International Obesity Task Force definitions of childhood overweight and obesity were used. These definitions are based on the principle of a child being heavier for their age than you would expect. The results were broken down by sex and by 5-year age groups.

They looked at the effect of high BMI on health outcomes and estimated the increase in risk associated with a change of five units of BMI in 5-year age groups for:

  • ischemic heart disease (eg angina and heart attack)
  • ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot)
  • haemorrhagic stroke (caused by a bleed)
  • hypertensive heart disease (strain on the heart caused by high blood pressure)
  • diabetes

To understand where most of the burden of disease occurs, they looked at three ranges of BMI (20 to 24; 25 to 29 and 30 or over) and for five overarching groups of diseases:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • chronic kidney disease
  • cancers
  • musculoskeletal disorders

They also determined the BMI associated with the lowest overall risk of death.

What were the basic results?

In 2015, globally 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults were obese. The prevalence has doubled in more than 70 countries since 1980 and continuously increased in most other countries.

Obesity now affects an estimated 5% of all children and 12% of all adults. In all adult age brackets, prevalence was generally higher among women.

Worldwide findings included:

  • High BMI contributed to 4 million deaths in 2015 (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.7 to 5.3), representing 7.1% (95% CI 4.9 to 9.6) of all deaths globally.
  • High BMI contributed to 120 million disability-adjusted life years lost (95% CI 84 to 158).
  • A total of 39% of the deaths and 37% of the disability-adjusted life years were in people with a BMI of less than 30 (i.e. not obese).
  • Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death and disability-adjusted life years with 2.7 million deaths (95% CI 1.8 to 3.7) and 66.3 million disability-adjusted life years (95% CI 45.3 to 88.5).
  • Diabetes was the second leading cause and contributed to 0.6 million deaths (95% CI 0.4 to 0.7) and 30.4 million disability-adjusted life years (95% CI 21.5 to 39.9).

A normal BMI of 20 to 25 in adults was associated with the lowest risk of death (the UK defines this as a healthy level).

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that their study “provides a comprehensive assessment of the trends in high BMI and the associated disease burden. Our results show that both the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI are increasing globally. These findings highlight the need for implementation of multicomponent interventions to reduce the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI.”

Conclusion?

This impressively large global study demonstrates that the prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide among both children and adults. It supports what has long been thought, that increased body mass index (BMI) contributes to a range of illnesses and is ultimately responsible for a large number of deaths, particularly from cardiovascular disease.

One potential limitation is the use of self-reported BMI or health outcome data in some of the studies, although the majority used a specific independent measurement so this is unlikely to have biased results too much.

It is also always difficult from observational data to be certain of the exact amount of years of life lost or lived with disability that are directly caused by high BMI. It is possible that being overweight or obese may contribute to the risk of getting a particular disease, for example cancer, in combination with other health and lifestyle factors. Therefore, though based on a large quantity of data, the results must still be considered as estimates.

Nevertheless the study highlights what we already know – that being obese is linked to a large number of chronic diseases. Perhaps more notable was that it also shows that almost half of the years of life lost or lived in poor health could be attributed to people being overweight, not just obese.

This study design cannot explain the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity. However, the fact that obesity has increased in countries of all levels of development indicates it is no longer a problem solely for high income countries. As the authors suggest, there are multiple factors contributing to this continuing trend, including reduced opportunities for physical education with growing urbanisation, along with increased availability, affordability and accessibility of energy-rich but nutritionally poor food.

There is an ongoing need for effective interventions to tackle overweight and obesity, both at the public health and the individual level. Otherwise the public health burden of obesity could be for the 21st Century what smoking was to the 20th Century – an entirely preventable cause of disability and death.

Ireland is one step closer to lifting the Good Friday alcohol ban

The Irish cabinet approved a number of amendments to a private members bill which would lift the ban.

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The lifting of the alcohol ban on Good Friday got one step closer today, as Cabinet approved amendments to a private members bill that will lift the ban in restaurants, registered clubs and hotels.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has already said the Government will not oppose the Bill tabled by the Independent Senator Billy Lawless earlier this year.

The Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017 aims to reverse the obligatory closure of licensed premises every year on Good Friday.

Today’s amendments extend the scope of the Bill, but as it stands the ban on alcohol in pubs on Good Friday still exists.

Originally, the Government had intended to deal with the 90-year old alcohol ban with its own legislation, but it is now happy to allow the private members bill to proceed on, with amendments made to it along the way.

While lifting the ban in pubs is yet to be approved by Cabinet, one government source said today’s amendments “signals the direction and intention” of the government to move towards an overall lifting of the ban in pubs, restaurants, clubs and hotels.

What do you think?

A Mini-poll: Should pubs be allowed to open on Good Friday?

The Poll Results: 

Glamping village owner hits out at banks over loans

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The undertaker who made world headlines when he transported a decommissioned Boeing 767 by sea to his planned glamping village, has hit out at banks who he claimed treat the west of Ireland as a “no-go area”.

The Quirky Glamping Village featuring a decommissioned Boeing 767 in Enniscrone, Co Sligo.

Enniscrone-based David McGowan told Sligo County Council that he hopes the first guests will be on site at the Quirky Nights Glamping site this time next year.

However, the entrepreneur who had hoped to be open for business this summer, outlined his difficulty in raising finance for the project saying he had been offered a bank loan, on terms which would have been “suicidal” for him to accept. He said banks had sought a €2m personal guarantee.

“As far as I was concerned I would be putting my family at risk”, said Mr McGowan.

He said the banks’ attitude was that “if it goes down, they are left with a hundred ton of scrap metal”.

Mr McGowan said that as well as being “very soul destroying”, this gave an insight into how lending institutions regard developers in the west of Ireland.

The undertaker said that he will now use Crowdfunding to raise the €2.5m needed to make his dream a reality.

He said he needed 25,000 people to pledge €100 each and was “fairly confident” of achieving that.

“I have 70,000 followers on my Facebook page,” he said.

He told councillors while there was a rumour out there he had run out of money this was not true.

“I am just being cautious. I think the banking system in this country is all wrong. I think they treat people in an inhumane way. They throw you out on the side of the road. They don’t care about your family”.

He told Sligo councillors that he had put the county on the world stage and had been trending third in the world on Twitter — behind Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — on the night the Boeing 767 was successfully deposited on Enniscrone beach.

He has moved a decommissioned RAF helicopter, a London train and a number of former London taxis to the site.

A breakthrough in thin electrically conducting sheets paves way for smaller electronic devices

Image result for A breakthrough in thin electrically conducting sheets paves way for smaller electronic devices   Image result for Professor Marty Gregg from Queen's University School of Mathematics and Physics, have created unique 2-D sheets, called domain walls

Queen’s University Belfast researchers have discovered a new way to create extremely thin electrically conducting sheets, which could revolutionise the tiny electronic devices that control everything from smart phones to banking and medical technology.

Through nanotechnology, physicists Dr Raymond McQuaid, Dr Amit Kumar and Professor Marty Gregg from Queen’s University’s School of Mathematics and Physics, have created unique 2-D sheets, called domain walls, which exist within crystalline materials.

The sheets are almost as thin as the wonder-material graphene, at just a few atomic layers. However, they can do something that graphene can’t – they can appear, disappear or move around within the crystal, without permanently altering the crystal itself.

This means that in future, even smaller electronic devices could be created, as electronic circuits could constantly reconfigure themselves to perform a number of tasks, rather than just having a sole function.

Professor Marty Gregg explains: “Almost all aspects of modern life such as communication, healthcare, finance and entertainment rely on microelectronic devices. The demand for more powerful, smaller technology keeps growing, meaning that the tiniest devices are now composed of just a few atoms – a tiny fraction of the width of human hair.”

“As things currently stand, it will become impossible to make these devices any smaller – we will simply run out of space. This is a huge problem for the computing industry and new, radical, disruptive technologies are needed. One solution is to make electronic circuits more ‘flexible’ so that they can exist at one moment for one purpose, but can be completely reconfigured the next moment for another purpose.”

The team’s findings, which have been published in Nature Communications, pave the way for a completely new way of data processing.

Professor Gregg says: “Our research suggests the possibility to “etch-a-sketch” nanoscale electrical connections, where patterns of electrically conducting wires can be drawn and then wiped away again as often as required.

“In this way, complete electronic circuits could be created and then dynamically reconfigured when needed to carry out a different role, overturning the paradigm that electronic circuits need be fixed components of hardware, typically designed with a dedicated purpose in mind.”

There are two key hurdles to overcome when creating these 2-D sheets, long straight walls need to be created. These need to effectively conduct electricity and mimic the behavior of real metallic wires. It is also essential to be able to choose exactly where and when the domain walls appear and to reposition or delete them.

Through the research, the Queen’s researchers have discovered some solutions to the hurdles. Their research proves that long conducting sheets can be created by squeezing the crystal at precisely the location they are required, using a targeted acupuncture-like approach with a sharp needle. The sheets can then be moved around within the crystal using applied electric fields to position them.

Dr Raymond McQuaid, a recently appointed lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University, added: “Our team has demonstrated for the first time that copper-chlorine boracite crystals can have straight conducting walls that are hundreds of microns in length and yet only nanometres thick. The key is that, when a needle is pressed into the crystal surface, a jigsaw puzzle-like pattern of structural variants, called “domains”, develops around the contact point. The different pieces of the pattern fit together in a unique way with the result that the conducting walls are found along certain boundaries where they meet.

“We have also shown that these walls can then be moved using applied electric fields, therefore suggesting compatibility with more conventional voltage operated devices. Taken together, these two results are a promising sign for the potential use of conducting walls in reconfigurable nano-electronics.”

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Sunday 19th March 2017.

Enda Kenny to stay ‘until North crisis is resolved’

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny has risked deepening the increasingly bitter Fine Gael war over when he will step down by saying he has no intention of leaving until the Northern Ireland political crisis is resolved.

Speaking after the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, Mr Kenny said the Northern Ireland issue “takes precedence over everything else”, effectively delaying his departure until at least the summer.

In the aftermath of a tentative coup against Mr Kenny last month, the Taoiseach told the parliamentary party he would address the leadership issue conclusively on his return from his week-long US visit.

However, while the position was widely seen to indicate he would step down later this month or in early April, no definitive timeline was given.

In recent weeks, Mr Kenny has caused concern among Fine Gael dissenters that he will not leave due to his repeated references to the need for stability during the Brexit negotiations next month and last Thursday’s meeting with US president Donald Trump.

However, while those close to Mr Kenny have sought to downplay such fears, the Taoiseach poured further fuel on the flames yesterday by saying the Northern Ireland political crisis is now another reason for why he should not step down.

Asked about when he will resign after walking past cheering crowds at the New York City St Patrick’s Day parade, Mr Kenny said he continues to have “a number of priorities” that must be resolved.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Taoiseach Enda Kenny march in the St Patrick’s Day parade on 5th Avenue.

He said the political impasse in the North caused by last month’s Stormont elections, and the fact Sinn Féin and DUP now have just three weeks to form a government or be forced into another election in May, was a new addition to these “priorities”, and stoked backbench anger by saying Ireland must provide “stable” leadership.

“What I’ve always said is I need to deal with a number of priorities here, the first priority is to put in place an executive in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Kenny.

“We have no government, no devolved authority, in Northern Ireland now. I hope the parties who are elected will accept the responsibility of putting together a government within the three-week period.

“What I did say to my party is that I would deal with this effectively and conclusively on my return, that’s my intention. But I think these are priorities that take precedence over everything else.”

Asked directly when he is “going to deal with it [the leadership question]”, Mr Kenny said: “I’m not going to answer that for you. Do you not think it’s appropriate that the immediate priority is to have an executive functioning in Northern Ireland, do you not think it’s appropriate that all the work we put together we should have an agreed negotiating stance for the EU that’s going to affect everybody in our country?

“I intend to follow through on those [priorities] very, very diligently.”

A number of Fine Gael backbenchers known to want Mr Kenny to step down as soon as possible last night declined to comment publicly, but said it has already been made clear to the Taoiseach he cannot continue to ignore the leadership issue.

Mr Kenny’s New York comments came 48 hours after a draft version of his speech to the American- Ireland Fund Gala in Washington DC said this would be his last St Patrick’s Day as Taoiseach before it was deleted from the script.

Asked about the change to the otherwise untouched 1,500-word speech on Wednesday, Mr Kenny simply said it was removed “because it shouldn’t have been in there”.

The McEvaddy brothers get Dubai backing for €2bn airport terminal

 Image result for The McEvaddy brothers get Dubai backing for €2bn airport terminal  Image result for €2 billion terminal scheme at Dublin Airport

The Marker Hotel in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square will have 30 bedrooms on the new floor, and the main restaurant will be moved to the rooftop.

Businessmen Ulick (above pic) and Des McEvaddy have secured the financial backing of a Dubai-based investment group to build a proposed €2 billion terminal scheme at Dublin Airport, according to the media.

Omega Air boss Ulick McEvaddy and his brother Des have been attempting for more than 20 years to develop a third independent terminal on 130 acres of land they own adjacent to the airport. They now have the support of Dubai-based Tricap Investments, an investment fund with a diversified portfolio that spans real estate, energy and aerospace in the Middle East, the US, Asia and Africa.

The Marker Hotel in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square will  have 30 bedrooms on the new floor, and the main restaurant will be moved to the rooftop. Photograph: Cyril Byrne   Brehon to add new floor to Marker hotel in €10m upgrade

Brehon Capital Partners, the owners of the Marker hotel, in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square, is planning a €10 million investment that will add a new floor and upgraded roof bar to the property.

The expansion will include about 30 bedrooms on the new floor, bringing the hotel up to 217 rooms, while it also involves moving the main restaurant to the rooftop. The roof would be about two-thirds enclosed, with a small, open terrace, allowing it to be used all year round.

JP Morgan may double its Irish workforce.

US investment bank JP Morgan may add up to 500 people to its operations in Ireland, which would more than double its workforce here, the Sunday Business Post suggests. The bank is among those to have instructed property agents to find additional office space in Dublin, it reports.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said on St Patrick’s Day that more than 120 overseas banks, insurers and other financial companies are currently in talks to move operations to Ireland as a result of the UK’s decision to quit the European Union.

Mr Noonan made the comments on Friday at an event in Singapore.

Aryzta sets four-year target to cut debts by €1bn.

Aryzta chairman Gary McGann has told analysts that he plans to cut debt levels at the troubled frozen baked goods company by €1 billion within four years, according to the Sunday Times.

Mr McGann, in his first public outing as chairman of Aryzta, said the company would undertake an overhaul of the board and a review of its business model. He also said he had received “very, very clear feedback” from shareholders that they did not see “the strategic fit” between Aryzta and Picard, its French frozen-food retailing associate.

Unilever may sell off its margarine division for €6bn.

Consumer goods giant Unilever is eyeing the £6 billion sale of its margarine division, which produces Flora and Stork, says the Sunday Telegraph. The FTSE 100-listed manufacturer has been forced into a strategic review of its operations after an audacious £115 billion takeover approach from Kraft Heinz, it reports.

The newspaper understands that rather than opt for a defensive bid for a rival such as Colgate-Palmolive, or a spin-off of its entire food arm, Unilever is leaning towards a sale of the margarine business, which controls just under a third of the entire global margarine market.

Eight men rescued off the Sligo coast after dive boat capsizes

Two men taken to hospital following the incident east of Sligo town

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Rescue 118 was called off from its search at Blacksod Bay, Co Mayo to assist with the operation.

Eight men have been rescued from the sea off the coast of Co Sligo after a dive boat capsized.

Two of the men were taken to hospital following the incident which occured off Aughris Pier, east of Sligo town.

A mayday call was received by Malin Head Coast Guard at 11.24am on Sunday. Fortunately, the Sligo Bay RNLI lifeboat crew were on a training exercise in the area and arrived at the scene of the incident at 11.43am.

The lifeboat crew rescued all eight people from the water and one man was airlifted to hospital by the Irish Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 118. He suffered a head injury when the boat capsized in heavy seas.

The remaining seven men were taken to Aughris Pier where one person was taken by ambulance to hospital. Following the rescue, the lifeboat crew returned to the scene to tow the vessel back to the pier.

Rescue 118 was called off from the search at Blacksod Bay, Co Mayo for the missing crew members of Rescue 116, the Sikorsky helicopter which crashed into the sea on Tuesday morning.

Sligo Bay RNLI lifeboat operations manager Willie Murphy said the incident happened at the end of a difficult week for the rescue services following the loss of Rescue 116.

He said: “This morning’s callout shows that the professionalism and dedication of the search and rescue community remains unchanged.

“The RNLI crew at Sligo Bay along with their colleagues at Rescue 118 were on scene minutes after the call for help was raised and rescued eight people from the water. Our thoughts are with the man who was airlifted to hospital and with our colleagues still searching in Blacksod Bay for the three missing crew members of Rescue 116.

Cancer the dreaded disease of women

Image result for Cancer the dreaded disease of women  Image result for Cancer the dreaded disease of women  Image result for Cancer the dreaded disease of women

Cancer is a dreaded disease, and rightly so because hitherto treatment was vague and patients were generally doomed to die of it. Advances in surgical technique and adjuvant treatment have now made cancer a treatable and possibly curable disease in early stages.

Women suffer nearly half the burden of cancer even though they are not pre-disposed to the conventional causative factors like tobacco and alcohol. The causal factors in women are generally age, lifestyle, hereditary, infections and environmental factors.

Social factors, especially inequalities, are major determinants of cancer burden in females, with poorer females more likely to die of their disease than affluent ones. Cancer can have profound social and economic consequences for the people of India, often leading to family impoverishment and societal inequality.

Common cancers and their screening?

Females generally postpone their first contact with a health facility, leading to a delayed diagnosis in an advanced stage. Unfortunately, the four most common cancers afflicting females can be screened and diagnosed at an early stage.

  1. Firstly, Breast cancer, can be screened by monthly self-breast examination, annual clinical examination and mammograms after the age of 50 years.
  2. Second, cervical cancer, a sexually active female should undergo a pap smear every three years from the age of 21 years and co-testing with HPV after the age of 30 years.
  3. Third, ovarian cancer, can be diagnosed by having a high clinical index of suspicion in a female presenting with vague abdominal symptoms, early satiety and a timely investigation by tumour markers and an ultrasound examination.
  4. Fourth, uterine cancer, presents as inter-menstrual or postmenopausal bleeding usually in an obese elderly female. The sad common denominator in all these cancers is that they can all be diagnosed early with minimal effort and cured by surgery.

How is cancer treated?

Once a patient is suspected of having symptoms of cancer, a general evaluation followed by a staging workup including a tissue biopsy is done. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, treatment options are discussed and if possible an appropriate radical surgery is planned. Radical surgery for cancer is the only curative treatment modality for solid organ cancers. Radical cancer surgeries require a centre where trained surgical oncologist interact with their medical and radiation oncology colleagues and have adequate post -operative ICU care  to obtain best results.

The first attempt at treatment is generally the best chance of cure as recurrence is resistant to most forms of treatment. After surgery the patients are followed up by designated protocol and undergo adjuvant therapy (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy) as needed.

The role of women in cancer is prevention?

Women have a central role in the fight against cancer, not only can they encourage their family members to change to a healthy lifestyle (abstinence from smoking/alcohol, healthier food habits, exercise) leading to cancer prevention, they can also be an observant family member who encourages an early medical consultation for a possible cancer symptom leading to early detection and cure. We must therefore, empower women with knowledge and use them as our sentinels in the war on cancer.

Scientists say the ‘five second’ rule is correct when dropping food on the floor

Image result for Scientists say the 'five second' rule is correct when dropping food on the floor  Image result for Scientists say the 'five second' rule is correct when dropping food on the floor  Image result for Scientists say the 'five second' rule is correct when dropping food on the floor

What do you do when you drop some food on the floor? Does it go straight in the bin or do you adhere to the widely-used ‘five second’ rule and eat it?

A study, undertaken by scientists at The Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, shows that four out of five people or 79 per cent of us admit to popping fallen food in our mouths.

Of course most people think their own floors are cleaner and thus it’s more acceptable to eat food off – 56 per cent of them in fact – but that figure drops considerably to just 17 per cent if eating off another’s floor.

The research also shows people are just as likely to serve food that’s fallen on the floor to their dog (18 per cent) as they are their partner (17 per cent).

The most radical examples of ‘hoovers’ include people eating snacks off the floor of the cinema (2 per cent) or public transport (1 per cent).

But when asked to justify why they would do thus, a fifth of people admitted to following ‘five-second rule’, which scientists have now revealed as legitimate and safe in most cases.

Germ expert, Professor Anthony Hilton from Aston University, told the Birmingham Mail: “Eating food that has spent a few moments on the floor can never be entirely risk free.

“Obviously, food covered in visible dirt shouldn’t be eaten, but as long as it’s not obviously contaminated, the science shows that food is unlikely to have picked up harmful bacteria from a few seconds spent on an indoor floor.

“That is not to say that germs can’t transfer from the floor to the food.

“Our research has shown that the nature of the floor surface, the type of food dropped on the floor and the length of time it spends on the floor can all have an impact on the number that can transfer.”

Supermarket soups can be laced with up to seven spoons of sugar

Image result for seven spoons of sugar  Image result for packet Supermarket soups  Related image

Some “healthy” commercial soups contain a staggering seven teaspoons of sugar, a top chef has revealed.

Hilary O’Hagan-Brennan said one spiced chicken soup was made with 28 grams of sugar per tub. The World Health Organisation recommends people take no more than 24 grams a day.

Ms O’Hagan-Brennan said on the RTE’s What Are You Eating? programme that even a root vegetable soup, which people might assume was healthy, contained 16 grams of sugar, or four teaspoons.

She says “There is no place for added sugar in soup”?

And sugar wasn’t the only hidden ingredient in our convenience foods, presenter Philip Boucher-Hayes discovered when he investigated.

He found that one third of us believe wraps are more healthy than traditional sandwiches.

But a large wrap can be equal to two slices of bread. And commercial tortillas are made with glycerol – a form of sugar – to keep them moist, and emulsifier to bind the ingredients together and extend their shelf life.

“Some chicken wraps have as many calories as a 12-inch pizza,” he discovers.

Consultant dietitian Aveen Bannon reveals that while salads are good for you, the benefits are often undone by large amounts of dressing. An average tablespoon of mayonnaise contains 94 calories – and people often use two or three spoons with a salad.

What would happen if the Earth’s rotation change direction or stop

Image result for What would happen if the Earth’s rotation change direction or stop  Image result for What would happen if the Earth’s rotation change direction or stop  Related image

The Earth, is the only planet in our solar system, that as long as we know it has life, and moves with a certain pattern, which we assume. Our planet rotates around its axis, a drive that takes about 24 hours, which seems to be from east to west at a speed of about 30 km per second.

We might think that these rules are insignificant and do not affect our existence. Only if our planet “rebels” and change course or reduce speed, then nothing will be the same.

According to the BBC, if the Earth began to move east, the climate in most regions would change drastically. The Sahara would be more rainy and desert will be turned into a jungle. Another case is that of anhydrous California which will also have more rain, as opposed to Florida we would see the swamps to dry up.

If again our planet began to move very slowly, then life on the planet would not survive as well, cause the side that would strike the sun would burn, and the “dark” side would freeze. In just one day we would have a transition from the Ice Age … the planet Venus. It’s a fact that the Earth actually reduces its speed, but it will spend trillions of years until it stops completely.

But here is a summary of the question answers.?

  1. The Earth would become an even more imperfect sphere and this would reduce the acceleration due to gravity; it would decrease at the equator and increase at the poles. Also, the days would shorten.
    2. Since the effect of gravity has decreased near the equator, we would observe tides much higher than usual in these areas, much more land would go underwater during high tides. I assume Venice would cease to remain habitable.
    3. The precession of the Earth’s axis would change. As the Earth becomes an even more Oblate Spheroid, the gravitational differences (of the Sun on Earth) would be larger on different parts of the Earth, this would make the axis precess even faster. The current cycle is 26,000 years long for one complete precession, this would shorten depending on the increase in rotational velocity. Axial precession

    4. North Star would change faster. Currently the North Star is Polaris which is set to be replaced by Deneb in 8,000 years. Due to the above reasons, it would occur faster.

    5. It is also possible that the axial tilt of the Earth would increase. This would mean that winters would be colder and summers would be hotter.

    6. Since the Earth now rotates faster and the Coriolis effect depends on the rotation of the Earth, the impact of Coriolis effect would increase and we would experience faster wind speeds. Coriolis force

    7. This would be a boon for geostationary satellites as the operational altitude would reduce due to Earth’s increased rotational velocity. Geostationary orbit

    8. Since the Sidereal day (Sidereal time) would now be shorter, we would have to redefine our present units of time.

    9. Since we would have to redefine our units of time and also the orbit of our satellites, it would be a disaster for the GPS system, I can safely say that it would be unusable for at least a few years until all the corrections have been made.

    10. Since the Coriolis Effect would alter the wind speeds, and the rotational velocity of Earth has increased, the travel time of aeroplanes would change.

 

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie`

Thursday 3rd September 2015

Taoiseach says ‘not realistic’ to set figure for refugees

Kenny says he instructed Minister Fitzgerald to attend crisis meeting with a ‘flexible mind’

   

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it is “not realistic” to set a figure immediately on the number of refugees Ireland can take.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it is “not realistic” to set a figure immediately on the number of refugees Ireland can take.

EU justice ministers will meet to discuss the migration crisis on September 14th.

“The past experience is that countries will not measure up if they’re asked to do so purely voluntarily,” said Mr Kenny. “So it may well be that they are going to have to work out a formula here to say what numbers are appropriate for each individual country, and then get on with having a plan and a strategy that can deal with that catastrophic human situation.”

Asked whether Ireland would be happy to accept a mandatory number, Mr Kenny said: “That’s a decision that’s going to be taken by the EU Council — whether you can have a compulsory, mandatory number fixed for each country, be it based on their population as a percentage of the overall population, or in whatever way.”

Mr Kenny said he instructed Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald “to go to the meeting with a flexible mind here. We’ve got to be realistic in what we can contribute. We’re not within the protocol, but we are opting in because of our personality and tradition.”

Speaking after meeting with President Francois Hollande in Paris, Mr Kenny said the photograph of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach at Bodrun was “absolutely shocking.”

“Any parent could see that child in their own arms. Here’s a body of a young boy; a life lost, potential wasted, washed up on a beach like driftwood. That picture more than any I’ve seen of all the tragedies may well shock political processes into taking action here, in terms of the stream of migrants and the causes that underlie that.”

Regarding the numbers of asylum-seekers Ireland will accept, Mr Kenny noted that “We have opted into the protocol” (that is to say an EU Council decision in the Justice and Home Affairs area, where Ireland normally has an opt-out).

Mr Kenny said Ireland’s “investment in humanitarian issues in Syria is substantial for a country of 4.8 million,” adding that “because of our tradition, we have indicated an extension of the naval humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean.”

Numbers

Asked what order of numbers of additional refugees Ireland could take Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “Speaking to Minister Frances Fitzgerald, we have already undertaken to take in over 1,000 for relocation purposes. We would expect to process about 3,500 asylum applications this year. And Ireland has taken in 85,000 new citizens over the last number of years.”

The EU had talked about distributing 40,000 asylum-seekers throughout the Union. “Now we’re talking about over 100,000 people,” Mr Kenny said. “The root causes of these things in countries where there are no governments and tragic circumstances unfolding every day with no plan to deal with it has got to be sorted out.”

Minister Fitzgerald said Ireland is “of course” willing to take more refugees than already committed to, and its ability to do that “will be looked at”.

  Speaking today she said she shared the “total upset the entire country feels at the images of the little boy [Aylan Kurdi], drowned on a beach”.

“It is one of the most distressing images we have ever seen.”

She said there was “a huge sense that we must do more” but said the figure of 600, which is the number of refugees the Government has committed to take under the current European refugee relocation programme, was “just one statistic in a wider context” of increased numbers of people seeking asylum here and seeking residency under other criteria.

Ireland would be “very proactive” on putting forward measures to deal with the crisis at the meeting on 14th September.

Assessed

“Obviously we will need to look at numbers again. Of course we are open to taking more here, but they have to be assessed in the first instance. It is not possible to put numbers on it at this stage.”

She agreed there was an “appetite” among the Irish people for the Government to take more but said any increase in numbers had to be co-ordinated at an EU-level and a plan had to be in place here as to where and how they would be housed.

“The reality is there have to be criteria. There are three full-time staff in my Department working out the process for taking 600. If that number were to double for instance, there would have to be additional resources. Other countries are building tented cities, using schools and gymnasiums.”

Asked if Ireland could do this, she said: “Of course, but it’s not ideal. The whole point is that this all has to be worked out.”

She said there were already hundreds of people, who had been recognised as refugees but still living in direct provision centres, because they could not find housing. There was also a 50 per cent increase in the number of people arriving in Ireland and seeking asylum here, apart from those caught up in this crisis.

“There is a wide range range of significant pressures and challenges,” she said.

Her junior minister, Aodhán Ó Ríordain, said however he was “confident” the numbers to be given protection here would “increase substantially”.

“I am confident Ireland is going to take a lead. The numbers will increase. They will increase substantially. The mechanisms as to how that will happen will have to be worked out but the Irish people are demanding we do more and want their Government to take a lead on this. It’s a moment in history and we must step up to the plate.”

Hot-spots

Minister Fitzgerald said there would be discussion at the September 14th meeting on how to best support countries with ‘hot-spots’ for migrants and refugees arriving.

She expected extra aid to be provided so temporary housing and processing centres could be built to better accommodate the needs of arriving people.

She also said the Dublin Convention, according to which asylum seekers must make their application for protection in the first EU country in which they land, was “clearly not working”.

Asked whether she thought the rule should be shelved or changed, she said: “It is going to have to be looked at. It is not being adhered to and we will have to discuss with our European colleagues where we are going with that.”

Most important, she said, was the safety of the migrating people, particularly during their attempts to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. She said people-smugglers’ activities had to be disrupted while those desperate to make the crossing had to be rescued.

Ministers and TDs have said Ireland must take more refugees than it has committed to so far. They have also said Ireland must take a leading role in pushing for a comprehensive EU response to the refugee crisis.

Seán Sherlock, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said there was “a case to be made for taking in more refugees.”.

He said Ireland had contributed €31 million towards the humanitarian effort on the ground in refugee camps along the Syrian borders, and pointed to the deployment of the Irish naval vessels in the Mediterranean who had saved hundreds of people from drowning while trying to cross toEurope.

“As a nation I think we have genuinely lived up to part of our end of the bargain but yes, there is case to be made that we should take in more.”

Pat Breen, chair of the joint committee on foreign affairs, said: “I think we could take more. It’s a balancing act. If we were to take an amount proportionate to the numbersGermany is taking, that would be 40,000. Obviously our economy couldn’t take that. But there is room for us to take more.

“It needs to be a co-ordinated response from the European Union. There are countries who don’t want to take any.”

Spiralling numbers.

He said the EU meeting of justice and home affairs ministers, scheduled for 10 days’ time in Brussels, should now be brought forward. An emergency discussion of the spiralling refugee crisis would be held when his committee reconvenes in coming weeks.

“I also think the Dáil must have a debate on this within a day or two when it’s back on September 22nd,” he said.

Jerry Buttimer, chair of the Oireachtas committee on health, when asked whether Ireland should accept more than planned number of refugees said, “Yes. Yes because it’s the right thing to do.”

Joanna Tuffy, chair of the Oireachtas committee on education, also called for a larger number of refugees to be taken by Ireland, and said Ireland needed to “take a leadership role in Europe among other countries. We should be calling for a co-ordinated response across Europe.

“The question of where more refugees would be accommodated is something that could be worked out. There are hotels. There are vacant buildings. The priority for these people is that they reach safety.”

Labour TD Joe Costello said: “We certainly should be doing a lot more. We have to be prepared to take more refugees. We have a huge diaspora of our own and we have had our people welcomed in other countries.

“It could be done at parish-level. There needs to be a buy-in at grassroots level, with people in each parish taking people in.

“We should be taking a lead in Europe. Heads need to be banged together in Europe and it needs to be done urgently. People are dying.”

I will go to Garda over disappearance of Martin Callinan’s SIM card

 

                               Lucinda Creighton

leader Lucinda Creighton says she is to go directly to An Garda Siochana over the disposal of personal papers and disappearance of a SIM card belonging to former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

The Dublin Bay South TD today expressed deep concern over the Fennelly report finding that potentially valuable information was not made available to the Commission.

And she said she intends to directly contact Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan, Mr Callinan’s success, to call for a full probe.

“I will yes, I’ll be making contact with the Garda Commissioner

I don’t know the facts or circumstances here, all I’m aware of are very very serious allegations and if they are true then I think it absolutely merits a full investigation,” Ms Creighton said.

She made the remarks ahead of the party’s think-in in Dublin this morning.

In his report, Mr Fennelly said it has been striking how little documentary evidence was available to his team.

Mr Callinan told the Commission that he had cleared out all personal papers after he announced his retirement and he did not have any written notes to support his evidence. He was, however, able to produce his diary for the year 2014.

On March 25, Mr Callinan went to a filing unit in the Conference Room, where he kept personal papers, and requested black refuse sacks as he wished to sort through his files.

He later asked a Superintendent to dispose of 8 to 10 bags of personal papers, which were shredded on April 4th, 2014.

The report also details how the SIM card in Commissioner Callinan’s phone was removed and subsequently destroyed.

The Commission again wrote to Mr Callinan and asked him to search for the phone.

He found it and furnished it to the Commission but it had no SIM card in it and no information stored on it.

An Assistant Commissioner said that the phone had been returned to the force by Mr Callinan – but that the SIM card had been removed.

The issue of the shredded papers and missing SIM are among the factors that prompted calls to recall the Dáil next week to discuss the Fennelly report.

Renua Ireland wants a new flat tax on all incomes

Declan Ganley urges party not to shy away from big ideas at first think-in in Dublin

  

(Right pic.) Lucinda Creighton and Declan Ganley at a Renua Ireland think-in in Wood Quay, Dublin.

Renua Ireland is working on a radical new policy that would see the introduction of a flat tax on all income, with bands and most allowances being scrapped.

The disclosure was made during the party’s first think-in in Dublin, during a session on the economy.

Businessman Declan Ganley, who was a guest speaker, told delegates that a flat tax regime was a “great disrupter” and would create a huge buzz that would attract international business and finance to Ireland.

“It’s going to be controversial. You can welcome the debate. It’s going to create a long-term sustainable economy,” he said.

A flat rate is a system of taxation where one tax rate is applied from the smallest incomes, including social welfare, to the largest.

There are variations on the idea, including the concept of a negative income tax, put forward by Milton Friedman in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom.

A negative income tax would allow personal deductions, or a threshold, before the flat tax was applied.

If the person’s income did not reach that threshold, they would be paid a negative tax calculated on the amount of the shortfall. This would replace some welfare payments.

Renua chairman Eddie Hobbs disclosed that Mr Ganley’s idea had already been taken up by the party and work on a policy was at an advanced stage.

It is thought that Renua does not favour a true flat tax, but one that would include deductions and balancing measures to protect vulnerable families and individuals.

Mr Ganley urged the party not to shy away from big ideas.

“Do the stuff that vested interests will resist and they will hit you hard, but you can take them head on,” he said.

Mr Ganley also attacked what he described as crony corporatism in Ireland.

He said there was a perception that there was a very small circle of individuals who have unique access to the halls of power and have the ability to capture part of this economy and make it available for self-enrichment.

In a thinly-veiled reference to businessman Denis O’Brien, he told the meeting there should be no room for those who ignore the findings of a tribunal, or allow Dáil Éireann to be browbeaten because it does not suit their political or business agenda.

‘Honesty on tax’

Lucinda Creighton told the think-in that people needed to be honest about tax.

“If you’re in favour of tax reductions, you are a bad, evil right-winger,” she said. “If you want to increase tax you are a caring, kind-hearted, loving person.”

She pointed to the 1,200 per cent increase that occurred in the capital gains tax take in the five years after 1997, when the rate was reduced from 40 per cent to 20 per cent.

Ms Creighton also said she will ask Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan to assess whether an investigation is needed into the destruction of documents by former commissioner Martin Callinan.

The interim report of the Fennelly Commission, which investigated Mr Callinan’s resignation, found that the former commissioner had documents destroyed as he left his post.

The commission also found that a SIM card belonging to Mr Callinan could not be recovered.

Ms Creighton said she will be making contact with Ms O’Sullivan on the issue.

She also said Renua will cut the number of people working in Irish Water as part of an overhaul of the utility company if the party is in government after the next election.

She said that her party will restructure and overhaul Irish Water – which she described as “an absolute disaster” – while keeping water charges in place.

HSE to fund on limited basis cost of multiple sclerosis drug

Extended campaign by patients proves success for medicine that helps sufferers to walk

   

Patients have been paying up to €500 a month for Fampridine from their own resources.

The Health Service Executive has agreed to fund on a limited basis the cost of a drug that helps people with multiple sclerosis to walk.

The announcement that Fampridine (known commercially as Fampyra) is to be reimbursed under the State-funded drugs schemes follows a lengthy campaign by patients who says the drug has greatly aided their mobility.

The HSE says it is in the final stages of putting in place the arrangement around a “responder-based” reimbursement programme for Fampridine.

The cost of the drug will be covered where a demonstration of clinical response, based on objective criteria agreed with clinical experts, is recorded, it says. This clinical response must be shown to persist based on objective measurement at six-monthly intervals.

Annual cost

In 2013, the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics, which rules on the cost-effectiveness of new drugs, found Fampridine would cost nearly €7,000 per patient each year. It said the €20 million annual cost to the State over five years would take money from other areas.

The HSE then decided that it could not approve the reimbursement of Fampridine and claimed the manufacturer, Biogen Idec, had failed to demonstrate or provide any formal justification for the prices proposed. Biogen maintained it had offered significant price reductions in the talks.

Agreement has now been reached on a reimbursement arrangement.

Patients have been paying up to €500 a month for Fampridine from their own resources after Biogen started charging for the drug last year following a free trial period.

Multiple Sclerosis Ireland expressed delight with the progress on reimbursing Fampridine, which it said had a significant impact on patients’ ability to remain independent.

Animals and not catastrophe, caused first mass extinction

   

The rise of early animals, not meteorite impacts or volcanic eruptions, led to the world’s first known mass extinction, which took place about 540 million years ago, suggests new research.

While mass extinctions are generally associated with catastrophic events, like giant meteorite impacts and super volcanoes, the new study puts the blame on the emergence of complex animals that can change their environment.

“People have been slow to recognise that biological organisms can also drive mass extinction,” said Simon Darroch, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, US.

“But our comparative study of several communities of Ediacarans, the world’s first multicellular organisms, strongly supports the hypothesis that it was the appearance of complex animals capable of altering their environments, which we define as ‘ecosystem engineers,’ that resulted in the Ediacaran’s disappearance,” Darroch said.

Researchers believe that earliest life on Earth consisted of microbes – various types of single-celled micro-organisms. They ruled the Earth for more than three billion years.

Then multi-cellular organisms like Edicarans emerged and in their heyday,they spread throughout the planet. They were a largely immobile form of marine life shaped like discs and tubes, fronds and quilted mattresses.

After 60 million years, evolution gave birth to another major innovation: animals.

Animals burst onto the scene in a frenzy of diversification that palaeontologists have labelled the Cambrian explosion, a 25-million-year period when most of the modern animal families – vertebrates, molluscs, arthropods, annelids, sponges and jellyfish – came into being.

“These new species were ‘ecological engineers’ who changed the environment in ways that made it more and more difficult for the Ediacarans to survive,” Darroch said.

The researchers performed an extensive palaeoecological and geochemical analysis of the youngest known Ediacaran community exposed in hillside strata in southern Namibia.

The site, called Farm Swartpunt, is believed to be 545 million years old.

Having ruled out any extraneous factors, Darroch and his collaborators concluded that “this study provides the first quantitative palaeoecological evidence to suggest that evolutionary innovation, ecosystem engineering and biological interactions may have ultimately caused the first mass extinction of complex life.”

The researchers believe that as humans are the most powerful ‘ecosystem engineers’ ever known”, an analogy between the Earth’s first mass extinction and what is happening today can be drawn.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. IANS

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 27th July 2015

Adopted people in Ireland to gain right to information on their birth parents

The Minister for Children James Reilly says planned legislation is ‘major breakthrough’

 

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly and Michelle Shannon the director of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs pictured at Government Buildings.

Planned legislation that would offer up to 50,000 adopted people a legal right to information about their birth parents for the first time has been described as a “major breakthrough” by Minister for Children Dr James Reilly.

The Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill will operate retrospectively and will also apply to all future adoptions.

The publication of the general scheme and heads of the Bill took place today.

People who were the subject of “informal” or illegal adoptions, or who were wrongfully registered, will also be able to avail of the information and tracing services planned under the legislation.

Many adoptees have faced difficulties accessing their birth cert, due in part to a constitutional right to privacy on the part of the birth parent.

Dr Reilly said officials had sought to strike a balance in the draft bill between the desire of adopted people to know more about their identity and the right to privacy of birth parents through a new statutory scheme.

In order to access records, adopted people would be required to sign a statutory declaration obliging them to respect the wishes of birth parents in cases where they do not wish to be contacted.

There will be no criminal sanction in the bill for failing to comply with this declaration.

The release of birth certs will, however, be subject to some conditions.

While there will be a presumption in favour of the disclosure of a birth cert, this will not apply if there are “compelling reasons” for the refusal, such as a person’s life being placed in danger.

In these cases, an adopted person could appeal the decision in court.

In addition, any additional identifying information – such as medical records – may only be disclosed with the consent of the birth parent.

‘Major breakthrough’

Overall, Dr Reilly said the bill marked a “a major breakthrough in dealing with the complex challenge of providing a statutory entitlement to identity information for adopted persons”.

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burtonsaid the denial of birth certs and identifying information in the past was associated with an era when adoption in the State happened “very much in the shadows, with little or no regulation and great secrecy”.

She said: “As an adopted person myself who discovered the true identity of my parents only after an exhaustive and deeply emotional search in the late 1990s, by which time they were dead, I always thought that this was grievously wrong.

“This is why I welcome the publication of legislation today.”

A mixed response.

The 200-page bill drew a mixed response from adoption groups.

Paul Redmond, chair of the Coalition of Mother And Baby Home Survivors, said it was a “very good day” for the adopted community in the State.

“Finally after years, decades and generations of secrecy, we’re finally coming out and joining the rest of the international community,” he said.

“We’ve been assured that substantial information from our files including our medical information is going to be released in the future pro-actively.”

But the Adoption Rights Alliance said the legislative proposals would impose “statutory discrimination” against adopted people.

Susan Lohan, the alliance’s co-founder, said adopted people should have unconditional access to their birth certificates and files as a basic right, rather than having to sign a statutory declaration.

“We cannot possibly endorse what we have seen of the proposals as outlined by the Minister and his officials, as in some circumstances adopted people will be forced to sign away their rights in a way that further marginalises them on a statutory basis,” she said.

Claire McGettrick, also of the Adoption Rights Alliance, said it was important to separate the issues of information and tracing.

She said that adopted people are seeking a statutory right to information, as opposed to a statutory right to a relationship with their natural mothers.

“Adopted people can already navigate the civil records in the General Registrar Office to obtain their birth certificates, and additional barriers, such as an information veto and a statutory declaration that one will respect one’s natural mother’s privacy, are wholly unnecessary and offensive to adopted people,” she said.

But the alliance said it intended to “fully engage” with the upcoming committee hearings on the legislation.

“We are happy to work with Dr [James] Reilly and we wish to stress that the only statutory provisions we are in a position to endorse is where adopted people are given unconditional access to their birth certificates and files,” she said.

Mr Redmond said his group’s only issue of contention was a one-year lead-in to enacting the legislation.

Mr Redmond said a key breakthrough was the fact that “illegally and informally adopted people” would be given equal status with legally adopted people in terms of tracing and searching, as this was a very important matter for the community.

Court finds Eircom and Vodafone guilty of overcharging Irish customers

  

Eircom and Vodafone have today been convicted and fined for continuously sending customers over-charged bills.

Following an investigation by industry watchdog Comreg, the telecom giants along with Three Ireland pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court today to charges under Section 45 of the Communications Act.

Vodafone was fined €10,000 and eircom received fines totalling €21,000 after they each pleaded guilty to seven charges.

Three, which pleaded guilty to three charges, will be spared a conviction and will get the Probation Act if they donate €15,000 to charity by September 28 next.

Judge John O’Neill singled out Eircom for criticism branding their code of practice a joke and he said that when customers complained they were “pushed from Billy to Jack and they were ignored”.

He said customers would have been upset, petrified and “worried sick” when they received letters from debt collectors chasing them for money on behalf of eircom. In one case, they used debt collectors to pursue an elderly man living in a nursing home after he had already cancelled his account, the court was told.

Vodafone over-charged another man who had suffered a serious injury in a fall and had cancelled his account, the court heard.

The customers were only refunded after Comreg got involved, the judge was told. Prosecution counsel Christian Keeling said the aggravating factors were the phone companies’ failures to deal with customer complaints a timely and courteous manner.

Comreg compliance analyst Miriam Kilraine told the court there were seven customer complaints in relation to Eircom. One reported that they asked to cancel their account in January 2014 but they continued to be billed in the following months and a debt collection company pursued them.

In another instance, an elderly man living in a nursing home had also cancelled his account in 2013 but continued to get bills and a debt collection company engaged by eircom.

Eircom had also failed to deliver a service to another consumer who had money debited from their account. Another Eircom customer was over-charged for broadband after his debit details were got mixed up.

Judge O’Neill was told that another customer signed up for a €35 a month package but was instead billed at €50 a month for several months. The court was also told another customer signed up for an Eircom loyalty bundle but never received the €25 a month deal.

Ms Kilraine said that in November 2014, a man emailed Vodafone to cancel the account of his son who had suffered a serious injury in a fall. Despite numerous calls to the company he still ended up paying for two extra months.

The court heard the company failed to cancel broadband accounts of two customers and one of them was pursed by a debt collection company. One of their customers upgraded to “e-fibre” high-speed broadband but it never worked and another was put on the incorrect plan.

Judge O’Neill was told that a Vodafone customer opted for an unlimited calls and texts plan but it was never applied to her account. Another Vodafone user ended up overpaying by €705 after she was erroneously double billed.

The Comreg analyst told the court that Three Ireland which took over O2 accounts last year kept billing and getting paid by two customers who had cancelled accounts.

Another customer got a phone upgrade and was offered a package by shop with a Three franchise. She accepted a deal where she would get 300 minutes of free calls to the UK if she paid an extra €2.99 on top of her €55 a month package.

However, she ended up getting billed for €300. She repeatedly went back to the shop and got no explanation and the sales assistant hid from her, the court was told.

The court heard the phone company’s customer service team had worked out of Mumbai in India but they have set up a new call centre in Limerick to deal with complaints.

Lawyers for all the companies said the cases related to human and system error and the court was to note that they have all set up new remediation plans to ensure these problems won’t happen again.

Counsel for Vodafone and eircom also asked the court to note they had 2.3 million and two million customers respectively.

The court was also told they have agreed to contribute to prosecution costs.

Enda Kenny’s first director of elections now joins Lucinda Creighton’s Renua party as candidate

  

Leader Lucinda Creighton at the launch of Renua in Trinity College, Dublin, back in March.

ENDA Kenny’s first director of elections has joined Lucinda Creighton’s Renua party.

Frank Durcan was Mr Kenny’s director of elections for the 1975 by-election which saw the Taoiseach successfully contest his late father Henry’s Dail seat.

Mr Durcan also worked closely with Mr Kenny on other election campaigns until 1984 when he fell out the Taoiseach and quit the party.

Since then Mr Durcan has served as an Independent councillor on Mayo County Council.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Mr Durcan said he joined Renua because he believes it is the only “credible political party”.

He also paid tribute to his new party leader, Ms Creighton, who he described as “another Mary Robinson in the making”.

“She has something that the rest of them don’t. She has common morality and civic morality, and she is an able debater. She is educated and has proven herself in both Europe and Ireland,” he said.

Mr Durcan said he was impressed by Ms Creighton’s “very courageous” decision to step down as a minister and leave Fine Gael over the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

“She walked away from a very substantial amount of money. It is not everyone that would have that type of courage. We don’t have got enough people like Lucinda in Irish politics,” he added.

Mr Durcan does not intend to run in the next general election but will serve as a Renua councillor on Mayo County Council.

He will also assist the party in finding a candidate to run against the Taoiseach.

Meanwhile back in Sligo ?

Finbarr Filan of Shafin Developments fame confirmed to run for Renua Ireland

 

The brother of Westlife singer Shane Filan will run for election in Sligo-Leitrim as a Renua candidate.

Finbarr Filan, brother of former Westlife singer Shane Filan, is to run for Renua Ireland

Mr Filan has confirmed he will be the general election candidate for the party headed by Lucinda Creighton. He will run in the Sligo-Leitrim constituency.

Mr Filan was a property developer and set up Shafin Developments with his brother Shane during the boom.

The firm took out a series of loans to construct a 90-home estate in Dromahair, Co Leitrim. The company went into receivership in 2012 and the pair were left with debt of €23 million.

Mr Filan said he welcomed the opportunity to be part of a political change.

“From my work in town and city centre management, I have experienced firsthand the frustration of the real time environment of retail business dealing with a monolith of a local authority.

“We need change and I would welcome the opportunity to be part of and help lead this change,” he said.

“I believe I have the character, personality, ability and life experience to win a seat for Renua in Sligo Leitrim.”

Ryanair reports a 25% rise in profits, and raises traffic forecasts

 

Passenger numbers up 16% to 28m in the first quarter of this year.

Ryanair said it is to raise its full-year traffic target by 3 million to 103 million.

Ryanair has reported a profit after tax of €245 million for its first quarter, up 15% on the €197 million recorded for the same period a year earlier.

Passenger numbers were up 16% to 28 million from 24.3 million and the airline said it was raising its full-year traffic target by 3 million to 103 million.

The airline said its full-year profit would be at the higher ends of its earlier guidance of between €940 million and €970 million due to strong bookings.

“This guidance, which is 12% ahead of last year’s profit, is heavily reliant on the final outturn of second-half fares over which we currently have almost zero visibility,” said chief executive Michael O’Leary.

Revenues were up 10% for the quarter from €1.49 billion to €1.65 billion while earnings per share increased from 14.22% to 17.90%.

Unit costs excluding fuel fell 7% in the three months under review.

The airline said it is now 70% hedged as far ahead as fiscal 2017 at an average price of $66 a barrel. It said it is 90% hedged at $91 a barrel for the 2016 financial year.

Ryanair said it intends to cut fares by between 4% and 8% over the winter months. It also plans to ground 40 planes between October to March as against 50 last year.

The airline said that fares for the first half of the financial year will be broadly flat.

“Our faster capacity growth and lower oil prices may lead to an aggressive pricing response from competitors who will try to defend their market shares,” said Mr O’Leary.

Having unanimously voted to accept IAG’s offer for its 29.8% stake in Aer Lingus earlier this month, Ryanair said that if the deal proceeds it would expect to receive the proceeds from the sale in September.

The Vatican hosts world leaders to fight climate change

  

More than half of the world’s population resides in cities, where 80% of all greenhouse gases are emitted. Citizens of large cities are directly affected by local decisions regarding ‘going green.

Cities across the world are developing policies and sustainable practices in efforts to provide healthier local environments and contribute to the global ‘green’ effort.

65 mayors recently visited the Vatican to discuss climate change with Pope Francis, giving cities a role in debates that previously only took place on the global and national level, where it is just not possible to deal with urban issues. National legislatures, whose debates are shaped more by financial interests than the everyday needs of local citizens, often get stuck in a state of paralysis regarding such policies.

Cities are in the perfect position to tackle issues such as air quality, energy efficiency, and conservation.

Depending on their geological location, cities are experiencing different effects of the same global pollution problem. Coastal cities, especially those in the developing world, are more vulnerable to natural disasters but do not have the massive sums of money needed to upgrade their infrastructure to better withstand flooding. Drier regions are experiencing intense summer heat waves and droughts that can cause health problems and strain water supplies for agriculture.

Residents who feel the effects most are the urban poor, infants, and the elderly.

As the effects of pollution are publicized and felt by individuals, communities, and nations, the world’s cities are setting into motion a bottom-up movement to push for a better quality of urban life.

Curitiba, Brazil has passed many successful policies, including integration of urban green spaces, reduction of waste, and a widely used public transportation system. Chicago has developed policies anticipating a hotter and wetter climate by repaving its roads with permeable materials, planting more trees, and offering tax incentives to encourage green office roofs.

Many cities have initiated environmental legislation that exceeds US Environmental Protection Agency standards.

An important organization in the movement, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership is a group of the world’s largest cities committed to reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy efficiency. In 2006, 40 cities were signed up–now there are more than 75 cities committed to the project with a combined population of over half a billion.

As grassroots, bottom-up movements spread, so does the inspiration and aspiration to care for the planet–for the Earth’s sake, the community’s sake, and the sake of the future generations.

News Ireland daily BLOG update

Wednesday 3rd December 2014

Five various former politicians deny offshore accounts claims

 

The names of former politicians investigated for alleged tax evasion read into Dáil record

Names in a dossier of former politicians who allegedly held offshore accounts have been read into the Dál record by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Former European commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, former Progressive Democrat and Fianna Fáil minister Des O’Malley, former Fianna Fáil ministers Ray MacSharry and Gerard Collins, and former Fine Gael minister Richie Ryan have all denied ever having Ansbacher accounts.

M/s McDonald today read the names of Mr O’Malley, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, Mr MacSharry, Mr Collins, “an S Barrett’’, Mr Ryan as well as “others” whom she did not identify into the Dáil record as allegedly having held offshore accounts.

She said they featured in a dossier compiled by a public servant who investigated tax evasion claims as part of his work in the Department of Enterprise.

Ms McDonald said it was not a case of her making allegations, “and I emphasise these are allegations’, but they had come from a very credible source.

Ansbacher accounts were funds lodged inIreland by the Cayman Islands bank, Ansbacher (Cayman) Ltd. They were at the core of an unauthorised financial service run in secret by the late Des Traynor. They allowed account-holders to lodge money with Guinness Mahon Bank in College Green which was then held offshore. The money would be accessed through Mr Traynor in Dublin. They ran from 1971 and the Irish operation was finally wound up in the mid-1990s.

Mr MacSharry, a former minister for finance, described the allegations as “absolutely outrageous”.

“I have never had an Ansbacher account, I was never was the beneficiary of one,” he said, adding he never had a Guinness and Mahon account either.

Mr MacSharry said he would be consulting his legal representatives to see what recourse he has, both against Gerry Ryan, the whistleblower, as well as Ms McDonald to see whether they “have the protection” they think they have.

“None of these wildcats should be able to sully my good name,” he said.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, a former Fianna Fáil minister, said in a statement: “I have never had an Ansbacher account. Neither have I had an account with Guinness Mahon Bank”.

In a statement, Mr Collins, a former Fianna Fail minister for justice, said: “I have never had or held an Ansbacher Account or Guinness and Mahon Bank Account and I would welcome any investigation into this matter.”

Mr Ryan, a former finance minister, told RTÉ he “emphatically denied” ever having an Ansbacher account or an account with Guinness and Mahon. He said he was “a total stranger” to the allegations.

Mr O’Malley said the reason for his being on the list was because he had “a particular form of account with Guinness Mahon Bank” which at the time was viewed as “a perfectly respectable bank”.

“The list, and allegations of tax evasion have been extensively investigated already by the Revenue Commissioners, the Gardai and the Moriarty Tribunal several years ago. Despite this it is being raised again,” he said in a statement.

Mr O’Malley said that on his appointment as minister for industry and commerce in 1977 he was aware that he had a share in some of the companies he would be dealing with.

“In order to avoid a conflict of interest and allegations of acting in my capacity as Minister for personal benefit, I followed a practice that is standard in other countries and put my assets into a blind trust. I was advised at the time that Guinness Mahon Bank had experience of operating such trusts,” he said.

Mr O’Malley said the nature of such a trust was for the owner of the assets in trust giving power of attorney for control of his relevant assets to trustees and that as the beneficiary he had no knowledge of the stocks and shares bought on his behalf.

“I received dividends annually through Guinness Mahon Bank and I paid tax on these in Ireland,” he added. “My tax affairs remain in full compliance with the Revenue Commissioners. I have never availed of a tax amnesty and indeed opposed it when the Fianna Fail/Labourgovernment introduced one in 1993.”

He said he had never had any dealings with Mr Traynor or held an Ansbacher account, adding that he believed “that such an account would have been a breach of trust by the bank in its dealings with me”.

Alan Kelly defends the €100m increase in estimated cost of the water meters

 

Sinn Féin Brian Stanley queries jump from €431m to €539m in cost and why the costs have increased

The initial estimated cost of €431 million for water metering was based on the best available information at the time, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly told the Dáil.

He was replying to Sinn Féin spokesman Brian Stanley, who asked why the cost had increased to €539 million.

Mr Kelly said the initial estimate was based on data relating to non-domestic usage.

“It is not entirely accurate to suggest there was a big jump from €431 million to €539 million in a short period. While that figure was cited a number of times in the months prior to completion of the tendering process, it was the last estimate available.’’

Mr Stanley said the estimated cost of installing meters had increased by 20 per cent. That represented a huge proportion of the taxpayer and public money that had been soaked up thus far by Irish Water for the metering programme. “I must assume that the consultants who came up with this estimate were the same people who were paid €85 million last year. There is considerable anger about that.’’

He said a survey by local authorities, which would have been more accurate, came up with a figure of €539 million.

He asked whether Mr Kelly found it “unusual’’ that the figure happened to correspond with the estimated cost of the contracts for installing the meters arrived at six months earlier. Mr Kelly repeated that the initial figure was an estimate arrived at a long time before the tendering process.

Green vegetables are always good for the heart

  

Researchers confirm that green vegetables are good for the heart.

UK researchers have found that eating green vegetables may help the heart pump more efficiently.

Scientists say eating nitrate-rich leafy green vegetables will help protect against dangerous clots, heart attacks and strokes.

Eating up your greens may help the heart pump more efficiently and reduce the risk of obesity and heart attacks, UK research has recently shown.

Scientists say nitrate, found in leafy green vegetables, prevents the blood thickening, improves circulation, and protects against dangerous clots, heart attacks and strokes.

Nitrate can also help blood vessels to widen and change harmful white fat cells into brown calorie-burning fat cells that may combat obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Dr Andrew Murray, from Cambridge University, says they have shown that nitrate from the diet can help regulate the delivery of oxygen to cells and tissues and its use, matching oxygen supply and demand.

“This ensures cells and tissues in the body have enough oxygen to function without needing to over produce red blood cells, which can make the blood too thick and compromise health,” Murray said.

“Lowering the blood’s thickness without compromising oxygen delivery may also help prevent blood clots, reducing the risk of a stroke or heart attack.”

The team, whose findings are published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, found that eating more nitrate-rich vegetables like spinach reduces levels of a hormone made in the liver that helps control blood thickness.

Co-author Professor Martin Feelisch, from the University of Southampton, says the findings suggest simple dietary changes may offer treatments for people suffering from heart and blood vessel diseases that cause too many red blood cells to be produced.

“It is also exciting as it may have broader implications in sport science, and could aid recovery of patients in intensive care by helping us understand how oxygen can be delivered to our cells more efficiently.”

Two other papers published in The Journal of Physiology, and Diabetes, showed how consuming nitrate promoted blood vessel dilation and the conversion of white fat cells into the brown version.

All three studies were part-funded by the British Heart Foundation.

‘Why can’t we speak Irish’ say’s Mayo college students?

 

Mayo students seek answer to the language question.

Language students – Christopher Hunt (left); Paul Flynn and Aaron Hannon

Three students from St Muredach’s College, Ballina – Aaron Hannon, Christopher Hunt and Paul Flynn – have entered a project called, “Why Can’t We Speak Irish?”, for this year’s BT Young Scientist Exhibition. The project aims to find out why the majority of Irish people “do not, and cannot, speak their native language”.

The idea came from the three of them comparing and contrasting their experiences of learning Irish in, for example, Gaeltacht summer colleges. Says Aaron Hannon: “We also found that there were a lot of common beliefs among people about the Irish language which we wished to dispel.”

To that end, the Mayo men have divided their project into five sections: 1) Is there a fear factor in speaking Irish?; 2) Are teaching methods adequate?; 3) What effect do Irish colleges in Gaeltacht areas have?; 4) Is the Irish language just difficult and are we better at learning other languages?; 5) Are we just not bothered? Is it a pride issue?

They are looking for people to complete an online survey to help them answer those questions and complete their project. They need over 1,500 replies for the survey to be accurate. However, says Aaron, it only takes 10 minutes to finish and, he hopes, “It will cast light on the subject and promote the use of our native language”.

The survey is at http://goo.gl/forms/HfIWDWlHCM and the students are also setting up a blog at http://www.whycantwespeakirish.wordpress.com which will also chart their progress.

Kenny visits Panti Bar with friends for Xmas party

  

Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer, Dr James Reilly and Enda Kenny at the Fine Gael LGBT event in Panti Bar

Taoiseach Enda Kenny dropped into one of the country’s best known gay bars tonight for what was described as a Christmas party.

Mr Kenny was in Panti Bar, run by Miss Panti, the drag queen alter ego of Rory O’Neill.

Mr O’Neill is originally from Ballinrobe in Mr Kenny’s home county of Mayo.

The Taoiseach and Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly attended the Christmas drinks of the Fine Gael Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group.

The group met in Leinster House and then went on to Pantibar.

Young Fine Gael President Dale McDermott said Mr Kenny was in Pantibar for the Fine Gael LGBT Christmas party.

“That’s a first,” he said.

But Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said the “get together” was not a party.

The chairman of Fine Gael LGBT said Mr Kenny dropped in to show his support for the group.

Mr Buttimer said the Taoiseach was recognising their work on the gender recognition bill, the family relationship legislation and the gay marriage referendum.

“It wasn’t a party per se,” he said only his his way of acknowledging the work of the group,” he added.

Tissint meteorite could be proof of life on Mars, study claims

  

An International team of researchers say they have found evidence of biological activity inside a meteorite that fell to Earth from Mars three years ago — in other words, possible evidence that there was once life on the red planet.

But other scientists are not convinced.

The meteorite in question is the “Tissint” specimen, which famously fell on the Moroccan desert on July 18, 2011.

As the team of researchers — including scientists in China, Japan, Germany, and Switzerland — report in a new paper, chemical, microscopic, and isotope analyses show traces of organic carbon within tiny fissures in the space rock, and that the carbon had to have been deposited before the rock left Mars.

“I’m completely open to the possibility that other studies might contradict our findings,” Dr. Philippe Gillet, director of the EPFL Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland and a co-author of the paper, said in a written statement. “However, our conclusions are such that they will rekindle the debate as to the possible existence of biological activity on Mars — at least in the past.”

And contradiction was not long in coming.

As Dr. Marc Fries, a scientist with NASA’s curation office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston who was not involved in the meteorite research, told The Huffington Post: “The research group claims that this carbonaceous material is evidence of past life on Mars. I do not agree, and it is not the current consensus of the scientific community that their claim is valid.”

NASA Finds Dramatic Crater Blast Zone on Mars

Fries said the meteorite could have been contaminated with carbon from terrestrial sources, even if the carbon did come from Mars.

“A biological origin is not the only possible explanation for the carbon found in Tissint,” he said in the email. “Other possibilities include volcanic and/or hydrothermal activity on Mars which could permeate Tissint with carbon-bearing fluids … Regardless of whether this particular meteorite contains evidence of life, the implications are more complicated than any simple yes or no answer to whether there is or was life on Mars.”

The study was published online in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science on November 26, 2014.

News Ireland daily BLOG Monday

Monday 17th November 2014

Ireland increases it’s R&D spending to €2.7 billion

 

R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP below the EU-28 average of 2.02%.

Ireland’s expenditure on research and development, has increased from €1.8 billion in 2004, to €2.7 billion last year, according to Eurostat.

Ireland’s expenditure on research and development has increased from €1.8 billion in 2004, to €2.7 billion last year, according to Eurostat.

The European Union statistics office said R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP, stood at 2.02% in the EU28 in 2013, compared with 1.76% in 2004.

The highest R&D intensities were recorded in Finland (3.32% of GDP), followed by Sweden (3.21%) and Denmark (3.05%), with Ireland standing at 1.58% of GDP.

Overall, EU-28 member states spent almost €275 billion on R&D last year.

Ten member states recorded an R&D intensity below 1 per cent of GDP. These included Romania, Croatia, Greece, Malta and Poland.

The business enterprise sector continued to be the main sector in which R&D expenditure was performed accounting for 64% of total R&D conducted in 2013, followed by the higher education sector (23%), the government sector (12%) and the private non-profit sector (1%).

The highest shares of R&D expenditure performed in the business sector were observed in Slovenia and Ireland.

For the state sector, the highest share was by far registered in Romania (49%), followed by Bulgaria (30%), Latvia (29%),

The highest shares of R&D conducted within the higher education sector were recorded in Cyprus (57%), Lithuania (55%), Latvia (43%) and Estonia (42%).

France meanwhile spent more than €47 billion on R&D last year. More than 17,000 companies, ranging from biotechnology and energy to software and gaming, are cashing in on the tax advantages and subsidies for innovation this year in France, with an average break of about €323,500.

Tax breaks for R&D, €5.6 billion this year alone, combined with world-class scientists are making France a honey pot for technology companies.

Some 400 Protesters leap onto Taoiseach’s car as he arrives for Fine Gael event in Sligo

 

Up to 400 anti-water campaigners chanted “shame on you” as Enda Kenny’s car pulled into the event

Furious protestors jumped on the Taoiseach’s car tonight as hatred at the water charges intensified.

Enda Kenny was attending a Fine Gael event in Co Sligo when he was confronted by angry demonstrators.

Gardai were forced to intervene after some of the protestors jumped on the car.

One man refused to let go as several of the officers tried to remove him from.the vehicle.

The car was surrounded by demonstrators who banged on the bonnet and the roof.

Cops eventually managed to move them and the car passed through.

The demonstrators carried placards warning the Taoiseach and the Government they will not “pay a penny” in water charges.

Up to 400 protesters gathered in Sligo tonight

It is believed that approximately 400 people are gathered outside a Co Sligo hotel where Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to attend a Fine Gael meeting.

The fresh wave of protests comes after Tanaiste Joan Burton was trapped in her car for two hours at a function in Jobstown in Tallaght on Saturday afternoon.

Enda Kenny was booed and heckled as he made his way to a book launch in the Mansion House on Sunday and video footage has surfaced showing a female protester being thrown in the direction of bollard by Gardai.

The Sligo demonstration – organised on Facebook – aims to be a peaceful one.

The event on the social networking site states: “Right 2 Water and others from within the wider community will protest against water charges at 6.45pm this Mon 17th November for a peaceful & dignified stance together seeking their abolition.”

Troika back in Ireland for second post-bailout review

  

The Troika is in Dublin today for the second post-bailout review. The Representatives will be in Ireland for just four days.

The State is subjected to twice-yearly surveillance missions until at least 75pc of the bailout loans are repaid under EU budgetary rules for countries that have left official support programmes.

The representatives will hold discussions with senior officials from the Departments of Health and Justice, as well as Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and the Central Bank.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin are not due to meet the Troika.

The representatives are due to discuss drugs pricing with the Department of Health, the state’s e-health strategy, as well as issues around spending. Health spending was running almost €300m over budget last month.

They will also discuss the progress of the long-delayed Legal Services Bill, which is still making its way through the Oireachtas.

The plan agreed with the EU-ECB-IMF Troika, and later driven forward by then Justice Minister Alan Shatter, aims to cut the cost of the courts system and reduce lawyers’ fees.

The Department of Finance told the Irish Independent the focus of the review will be on the state’s ability to repay the bailout money, as well as covering the economic outlook.

The Department said  issues such as water charges, property price issues or changes to the corporation tax regime here through the end of the so-called Double Irish are not on the agenda.

However, it is understood representatives will be interested in looking at the progress in rolling out key commitments under the bailout programme, therefore some issues may arise.

Representatives will meet with lobby groups the Small Firms Association (SFA) and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) during which discussions will focus on financing conditions for small and medium-sized businesses.

CIÉ to examine some ways of monetising onboard Wifi

 

CIÉ to retain ownership and access to any user data collected through wifi service

Passengers on Iarnród Éireann make some 28.6 million journeys a year and have 6 million wifi sessions.

CIÉ is to start looking at ways of monetising the onboard wifi service on its rail and bus fleets.

In a tender published today, the company said it is seeking market consultation on potential revenue models for the service.

Among the principles “underlying the project” is that CIÉ would retain ownership and access to any user data collected. However, this data could “potentially be used by the other contracting party for marketing purposes”.

Other principles include the availability to CIÉ of easy access to the “splash page” to allow it to change content on a routine and emergency basis. The tender document also states the contractor “cannot make changes that significantly diminish the user experience”.

Iarnród Éireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann have all “invested significant capital in rolling out onboard wifi to their customer bases,” CIÉ said.

The company believes onboard wifi leads to greater usage of bus and rail services, saying “research indicates that the availability of wifi will increase the demand for public transport”.

CIÉ states it has a “strong desire that commercialisation opportunities be localised so customers receive relevant content”.

It is seeking feedback on a business model which would “maximise income and minimise risk”. It advises interested parties to consider a “content based/ infotainment/web portal route”. It also advises them to consider sponsorship on a “per engagement basis” and to consider corporate sponsorship.

Passengers on Iarnród Éireann make some 28.6 million journeys a year with 6 million wifi sessions used on board. Bus Éireann passengers make 78.7 million journeys a year with 2.25 million wifi sessions, while Dublin Bus customers make about 118 million journeys a year and have 18 million wifi sessions.

Irish scientific research is finding space in the natural gas fuel market

 

Metal Organic Frameworks offer incredible new storage capabilities for all sorts of gases

Metal-organic framework (MOF) material are highly crystalline porous materials made up of 3D networks of zinc-oxygen clusters connected by organic molecules. Uses of MOFs include gas separation, gas purification, gas storage, or as catalysts.

Metal Organic Frameworks. What do those three words together conjure up in your mind?

If you’re not a science graduate, perhaps the 1980s cartoonJayce and the Wheeled Warriors is what you’re thinking – where strange half organic, half inorganic machines (the Monster Machines) battled it out with Jayce and hisLightning League.

Or if you’re actually au fait with modern chemistry you may be thinking of something far less juvenile.

MOFs are an example of crystal engineering, a new “paradigm for materials design” which is being carried out at the University of Limerick (UL) and elsewhere in Irish labs.

“Those involved are designing materials from scratch rather than randomly trying to discover new materials,” says Mike Zaworotko, Bernal chair of crystal engineering and research professor at the UL department of chemical and environmental science.

“Shake and Bake is a term used to describe how to traditionally make a material. Crystal engineering takes a different approach. You start with a molecule and build a material around it, quite like an architect. Nothing is left to chance, and nothing is done randomly.

“Once you successfully learn how to design materials you can control the structure and properties of that material and fine-tune them rather than letting nature decide what it wants to do.

“Through the phenomenon of self-assembly, we can now design materials with atomic precision, materials that may revolutionise practically every technology on earth.”

Empty vessels make most space?

MOFs are an example of crystal engineering – not a result of random chance, but carefully selected organic and inorganic building blocks, built with design in mind. In this case, their design with a lot of empty space within is a valued property: they become storage facilities.

This is where it all gets a little counter-intuitive but essentially, with the help of certain MOFs, you can have a solid providing more empty space for materials than if the solid were not there to begin with.

“MOFs can provide more surface area, particularly for the storage of gases,” says Zaworotko.

“It can be conceptually difficult to get one’s head around this but something solid which is so full of holes can actually provide more space than if it wasn’t there. Hundreds of thousands times more space in fact.”

In some cases up to 80% an MOF can be void. The easiest way of thinking about them, therefore, is like very highly concentrated little sponges.

“One gram of MOF surface area would be the equivalent of up to 40 tennis courts,” says Dr Paschal McCloskey, chief executive of MOF Technologies, based in Belfast.

“If that analogy doesn’t work, try a quarter teaspoon filling a rugby pitch.”

Gas-powered vehicles

So what? You may be asking. Well, the single biggest potential game-changer provided by MOFs is in the powering of motor vehicles, particularly with natural gas/methane.

An incredible first look inside a huge crater at ‘End of the World scenario’

  

A scientific mission inside a newly formed crater in Siberia has provided a breathtaking view in a land locals call the “end of the world.”

A photo taken in darkness shows a person rappelling to the bottom of the icy hole on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia Nov. 8, 2014.

The name Yamal means “the end of the world,” according to The Siberian Times, which published the exclusive first look inside the crater.

Vladimir Pushkarev, the mission leader and director of the Russian Center of Arctic Exploration, said his team hopes to understand how and why the crater seemed to suddenly form earlier this year.

“As of now we don’t see anything dangerous in the sudden appearance of such holes, but we’ve got to study them properly to make absolutely sure we understand the nature of their appearance and don’t need to be afraid about them,” he told The Siberian Times.

A scientist looks to the bottom of a crater on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia, Nov. 9, 2014.

He explained that his team scheduled its expedition for when the weather got cooler.

“It is easier to do this in winter than in summer, with the ground now hard,” he said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 19th June 2014

AIB says it intends to repay the €20.8 billion bailout from Irish State

 

The banks chairman tells shareholders that repayment of bailout was ‘constant focus’ of his board

AIB chairman David Hodgkinson told shareholders today that the bank intends to repay the €20.8 billion in bailout funds that it has received from the State since 2009.

“This bank will over time repay the €20 billion to the State,” he said in response to a rambling question from shareholder Niall Murphy at its annual general meeting in Ballsbridge. “That is our intention. We have to create a viable institution and we are well on that path.”

Earlier, in a prepared statement, Mr Hodgkinson said it was the “constant focus” of the board of AIB to repay the State and he said the bank had paid €2 billion in recent years to the exchequer in fees related to the Government guarantees and coupon payents on its contingent capital notes.

Mr Hodgkinson also revealed that AIB chief executiveDavid Duffy has agreed to a permanent contract with the bank, having previously been on a three-year contract that was due to end in December.

There was no financial update from AIB at its AGM this morning, given that it had issued an interim management statement in May and its results for the first half of this year will be published on July 30th.

Mr Hodgkinson said a number of milestones had been met by the bank recently, including approval for its restructuring plan by the European Commission. He reiterated that AIB had returned to post-provision profitability during the first quarter of this year.

Mr Hodgkinson said AIB plans to deliver mortgage approvals of between €7 billion and €10 billion each year out to 2017. Lending drawdowns by customers in its combined businesses were 60 per cent higher during the first three months of this year when compared with the same period of 2013.

He said mortgage drawdowns in the Republic were 50 per cent higher during the first three months of 2014 when compared to the same period last year.

The AIB chairman added that mortgage arrears in Q1 was “stable”.

“We are fully aware of the distress suffered by many customers in financial difficulty and we are making real and tangible inroads into restructuring their borrowings,” he said.

On SME lending, Mr Hodgkinson said credit demand is improving and lending approvals in the first quarter of 2014 were 25 per cent higher than the same period of last year.

The bank is to hold an extraordinary general meeting later to deal with a proposed capital reorganisation.

AIB currently has in excess of 523 billion shares in issue, 99.8 per cent of which are held by the State, and the bank plans to simplify this structure.

European court rules against Dunnes Stores in copyright case

 

Karen Millen the designer says Dunnes should not be allowed copy its skirt and top.

A sweater designed by Karen Millen in 2005 (left) and another design which appeared on the shelves of Dunnes Stores outlets in 2006.

The European Court of Justice has ruled against Dunnes Stores in relation to arguments it has made in the case where British fashion company Karen Millen is complaining about the copying of its designs.

A number of questions were referred to the court by the Irish Supreme Court concerning the interpretation of EU regulations on the protection of fashion designs. The outcome is seen in some quarters as having ramifications for all high-street retail chains.

In the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geogheganruled that Dunnes, in offering for sale a black knit top and blue and brown shirts, infringed Karen Millen’s rights to unregistered community design under council regulation (EC) number 6/2002 in each of the three designs.

The issue was then appealed to the Supreme Court, where Dunnes argued that as Karen Millen had failed to prove the individual character of the designs at issue, it was not the holder of an unregistered community design.

It said the individual character of a design must be assessed by reference not only to one or more individual designs made available to the public previously, but also by a combination of features taken in isolation and drawn from a number of earlier designs.

In its judgment, the court in Luxembourg said that the individual character of a design must be assessed by reference to one or more specific, individualised, defined and identified designs from among all the designs which have been made available to the public previously.

“Consequently, that assessment cannot be conducted by reference to a combination of features taken in isolation and drawn from a number of earlier designs.”

The Supreme Court had already rejected some of the Dunnes Stores claims and a full hearing of the appeal by the Irish retailer can now go ahead after the rulings from the Luxembourg Court.

In the European court’s judgment, it says that the British fashion designer put the shirt and top on sale in Ireland in 2005, and that the items were purchased by representatives of Dunnes Stores. “Dunnes subsequently had copies of the garments manufactured outside Ireland and put them on sale in its Irish stores in late 2006.”

Irish consumer prices are 18% higher than the EU average

 

Figures from Eurostat also show alcohol and tobacco prices are on average 78% more expensive than the EU.

Even after six years of austerity, consumer prices in Ireland are on average 18% higher than the European Union norm, prompting renewed concern about the country’s competitiveness.

According to figures from Eurostat, Ireland is considerably more expensive than most of its European neighbour’s when it comes food, alcohol, restaurants, hotels, transport and electronic goods.

The figures, which are based on data from last year, ranked Ireland as the fifth most expensive of 28 member states, behind Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and Finland, with prices estimated to be 118% of the EU average.

This placed us ahead of countries like the UK, France,Germany and Spain.

Despite the country’s large agricultural sector, the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages here was 17% higher than the average.

In terms of alcohol and tobacco, Ireland ranked as the most expensive state in the EU and by some way, with prices 78% higher than the average.

However, the study noted the large price variation in this category reflected, in the main, differences in taxation.

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland called for the reversal of excise duty on alcohol, saying the “unfair” excise rate was a tax on jobs, tourism and consumers.

The cost of restaurants and hotels in Ireland was found to be 28% above the average, placing Ireland third behind only Sweden and Denmark as the most expensive place to stay and eat out.

Ireland was also ahead of the norm in terms of the cost of personal transport equipment (111 %) and when it came to consumer electronics (105%).

Clothing was the only category in which prices here were found to be below the average, in this case by 2%.

Alan McQuaid, economist with Merrion Stockbrokers, described the figures as disappointing, especially as the only countries with higher prices than Ireland were the traditionally tax-high states of Scandinavia and cash-rich Luxembourg.

“We were a lot closer to the EU on the prices front at the height of the crisis, though we were higher on average at the height of the boom.”

“The data highlight that Ireland is in danger of becoming uncompetitive, charging more for its goods than other EU member states.”

Mr McQuaid said higher taxes were clearly a factor, noting the VAT and excise duty hikes that were implemented as part of the fiscal austerity process.

“With an increase in corporation tax being ruled out, and little scope left for income tax hikes, then the only option left is indirect taxes, which of course add to prices.”

“The other key issue which these figures highlight is the underlying cost for retailers – e.g. rents, insurance and wage costs – are higher than elsewhere. You cannot look to have one of the highest minimum wages in Europe, and then not be surprised that prices are more expensive than the rest of the bloc.”

Whatever about wages, he said the Government need to address the issue of high insurance, rents and other administrative costs.

“Overall, the figures are no great surprise and despite the low headline annual inflation rate, should be a reminder to policymakers not to rest on their laurels and take things for granted.”

Recent consumer price data from the Central Statistics Office showed suggested annual inflation was running at just 0.4% in May.

A breakdown of the figures showed, however, the cost of renting a home rose more than 20 times faster than the average level of inflation over the past 12 months.

Meanwhile:-

The rate of jobless households in Ireland is far above the European norm

 

About a quarter of Irish households are currently jobless at a level “far above” the European norm in a situation described as “not acceptable” says Taoiseach Kenny.

A new report by a Government-sponsored think tank has found that 23% of Irish households are jobless, compared to a European average of just 11%, and that 56% of Irish jobless households have children.

The National Economic and Social Council warned that these households have a high risk of poverty, with the danger of passing on joblessness and poverty across generations.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has now pledged to break the cycle and reiterated the Government’s commitment to “continue the plan to dismantle the passive welfare system” which had “abandoned such large numbers of households to lifelong dependency on the State”.

“This is essential if we are to break the cycle of poverty and unemployment associated with jobless households,” he said.

The report, ‘Jobless Households: An Exploration of the Issue’, found that those who live in jobless households are more likely to have no educational qualifications, to have never worked or to be in the unskilled social class.

They are also more likely to be renting their accommodation, to be single or parenting alone, and to either have a disability or to live with someone with a disability.

The NESC has pointed out that because of the multiple reasons for joblessness, a one-solution-fits-all approach will not work and that packages of support must reflect individual needs.

Adult literacy, child development, family supports, addiction services, disability services, housing, education and training, public and community employment as well as engagement with employers must all form part of a tailored service to cater for people’s circumstances, the NESC said.

Helen Johnston, author of the report (pictured), explained that the reasons for household joblessness are complex – but the age, level of education and health of the adults in the household are all factors.

Blind dog reacts to seeing his owner and family again
 

Duffy is an Irish terrier that has risen to YouTube fame thanks to a video put up two days ago by his owner, YouTuber Benjamin May.

According to May Duffy had gone blind from complications with doggy diabetes. However, after regulating the dog’s condition, Duffy was able to get a restorative surgery to bring back his sight again.

As he darts around the room with an Elizabethan collar—the cone given to pets after surgical procedures—his tail is wagging and he starts to whine with excitement. But enough of this play-by-play. Take a look at the video above.

After the successful operation adorable Duffy is let into the room where his owners are waiting and is overcome with doggy delight.

He clearly recognises them and not knowing who to greet first the happy chappy chases around the room in ecstasy.

You Tuber Ben Myer uploaded the smile-inducing video two days ago.

He wrote: “This is my Irish Terrier Duffy. He’s a rescue dog and he’s had a lot of struggles with his health.

“He developed diabetes and lost his eyesight. With medication we got his diabetes stable and he qualified for eye surgery to give him back his sight. Here is seeing my parents afterwards.”

A record number of flamingo chicks raised in Gloucestershire England

  

A total of 35 fluffy chicks are being raised at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, whose flock is the largest in Europe with 245 birds.

A Record number of chicks are being reared at Europe’s largest greater flamingo flock. A total of 35 fluffy chicks are being raised at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, England.

The wetland centre’s flock is the largest in Europe with 245 birds and the number of newborns has smashed the previous record of 25 set in 2010.

Mark Roberts, aviculture manager, said: “It is really quite incredible as the wet weather in May certainly made rearing challenging for them.

“Their nesting island is now made out of sand rather than mud which has been shown in recent studies to be better and they really like the environment of Flamingo Lagoon, so I think it must be down to these factors.

“It is a stunning sight to see all the chicks around the nesting island and the observatory has been busy with visitors enjoying watching all the action.”

Now the successful flock is taking great care rearing the bumper yield of chicks using supervised ‘creches’ to allow the parents time to themselves.

The chick’s parents still crop feed the bird but for long periods of the day the chicks will stay with each other with just seven or eight ‘nanny’ adults supervising them.

Mr Roberts added: “The creches are fun to watch. If a plane flies over or if there is any other disturbance that they deem a threat the chicks all huddle together with the ‘nanny’ birds forming a protective ring on the outside.

“Flamingos are extremely sociable birds with a complex hierarchy. This emphasis on flock behaviour starts from when they are just days old when they join the creche.”

Four of the world’s six flamingo species are classed as ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

It is thought there are less than 30 breeding sites left in the whole world.

News Ireland daily BLOG

Wednesday 14th May 2014

An Irish construction Plan by Enda Kenny promises a world class sector for Ireland

  

Enda Kenny, the taoiseach and Eamon Gilmore, tánaiste, this afternoon announced a package of measures to stimulate activity in the construction industry and boost local and European election prospects, just with over a week to polling day on Friday May the 23rd.

The taoiseach promised “a world-class, competitive and dynamic sector operating to the highest standards and in line with best practice.

The term “world-class” is the most overused and laughable bullshit term in the lexicon of Irish politicians and policy makers when “bog-standard” would often be acceptable if that could be even attained.

Kenny today launched  a report called a “strategy” almost 5 months after what was to be a medium strategy for 2014-2020, at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown and he said the central aim of the latest strategy is “to provide homes for our people by tripling housing output by 2020 and adding 60,000 jobs to the construction sector over the same period.”

He announced spending of €200m that will be “a huge boost for tourism, sports, local communities, jobs and for the construction industry itself.”

It includes the allocation of €20m to the Pyrite Remediation Scheme and a €30m gift for the GAA’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh Stadium in Cork – – money can always be found at election time.

Some 75 actions span across many related areas including housing, planning, financing, the commercial sector, infrastructure and public investment, standards and regulation, and skills and competitiveness.

Kenny says the strategy addresses many important issues and obstacles for the improvement of the sector and indeed for the country as a whole.

Such issues include:

  • – a strategic and measured approach to the provision of housing, nationally and in Dublin, with mechanisms in place to detect and act when things are going wrong;
  • – continuing improvement of the planning process, striking the right balance between current and future requirements;
  • – the availability of sustainable bank and non-bank financing for viable projects;
  • – appropriate access to mortgage finance on sustainable terms;
  • – effective enforcement of proper building standards and appropriate regulation;
  • – the identification and removal of blockages to necessary commercial development, and
  • – facilitating the strengthening of capacity in the sector, especially in terms of international expansion and technology advancements.

“One project I’m excited to see progress on is the development of an interlinked, national greenway network and the commitment of €10m to start the Dublin-Athlone-Galway route will help create an internationally recognised tourism attraction,” Kenny said and concluded: “The Government has a plan for Ireland, a plan for jobs and stability…We now have a plan for the construction sector. To get it back up off its knees and contribute again to Ireland’s recovery.

A sustainable construction sector based on the highest standards of quality is essential to make recovery local and to get Ireland working again.”

Reilly denies a plan to shut maternity units in the West & North West of Ireland

 

An HSE study mooted closure of up to four obstetric units in the west and north-west of the country. The Minister for Health James Reilly: said the HSE report had ‘no standing on its own’.

Minister for Health James Reilly has said he has no plans to close any of the State’s 19 maternity units.

Dr Reilly said a study commissioned by the HSE, which moots the closure of up to four obstetric units in the west and north-west, has “no standing on its own”.

The study, which was revealed in this morning’s Irish Times, has to feed into a national review of maternity services, the Minister told the Dáil today.

The study proposes a number of options for the future of maternity services in the west and north-west, from no change to current arrangement to the closure of up to four units at Ballinasloe, Castlebar, Sligo and/or Letterkenny. The closure of the maternity unit at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe features in four of the six options outlined in the report.

Dr Reilly said staff-patient ratios in maternity units were far too high but there had to be an examination of the roles of those working in hospitals so as to determine how better use can be made of staff. “We must find ways to support staff using other staff so that we can provide the safest possible care for patients.”

Bill Maher, chief executive of the West/North-West Hospitals Group, said no reconfiguration of services has been recommended to or approved by the groups or its senior management. “Feasibility studies have not even been carried out and speculation at this early stage in the process is unhelpful and upsetting for patients and staff.”

He said a review of existing models of maternity care was being conducted across the group, and the board had accepted recommendation to develop consistency in these care models.

Staff and the public would be engaged in the consultation process and the review of maternity services in the west and north-west would be considered as part of the broader national review of services, he said.

Baby giraffe makes Dublin Zoo debut

  

The giraffe calf made his first outside appearance in the African Savanna yesterday

There was the giraffe equivalent of “wetting the baby’s head” at the African Savannah at Dublin Zoo this week when the entire herd welcomed a new-born calf into its fold.

Weighing in at a healthy 70kg and 1.7 metres tall, the male Rothschild giraffe was quite a handful. He was an instant hit with the herd of seven giraffes when he made his debut at the savannah enclosure on Monday.

Dublin Zoo operations manager Gerry Creighton explained: “It’s part of the acceptance ritual.”

Female members of the herd had a sneak preview when the calf – who has yet to be named – was born in front of them last Wednesday.

The birth was captured on CCTV, to the delight of zoo staff.

The successful birth was also a happy ending for the mother Maeve, whose last calf, Tamu, born at the zoo in June 2012, died last December.

Meanwhile, the proud father, Robin, who has sired several other giraffes at the zoo, including Tamu, was introduced to his newborn for the first time this week and he immediately took to him, Mr Creighton said.

The calf will remain at the zoo until he matures in about five or seven years’ time and then will likely be loaned out to other zoos as part of the international zoo breeding programme, he added.

But in the meantime, he’s sure to be a hit with the crowds.

Children worst affected by recession in Ireland

   

One in every 3 young Irish people have been deprived of food, heating or clothes over the past 5 years. Children have been disproportionately affected by the collapse of the economy

Almost one in every three children has been deprived of food, heating or clothing during the recession.

The ESRI has released new research on the impact of the downturn on different age groups, genders and family types over the past five years.

The ESRI report, From Boom to Recession, finds that younger people have been the worst affected, with unemployment rates hitting 25% in the under 25s category, compared to 12% for those aged 45 and over.

Meanwhile, 130,000 children have suffered deprivation, that is defined as not being able to afford basic food, clothes or heating. Almost 33% of the under 14s are classed in this category, compared to 11% for the over 65s.

Income poverty by gender and age group, 2007 and 2011

Cohabiting couples with children experienced the most acute rise in job cuts, while childless couples were far less likely to be deprived.

Gender gap

A separate study by the think-tank looked at the impact of job-losses on both sexes, with men suffering the most dramatic impact.

The gender gap between men and women in work fell from 16% in 2007 to 8% in 2012 – while one in 10 women are now the main breadwinners in their household.

Estimated employment rates by gender, 2007 and 2012 (model-estimated controlling for other factors)

The sharp increase in the number of unemployed men is thought to be down to the collapse of the male-dominated construction industry.

As much as 30% of water lost by faulty pipes

  

New investment plan needed for water supply in capital.

Areas of Dublin are losing around 30% of their total water supply through damaged infrastructure.

The capital’s water loss, due to damaged infrastructure, is less than the national average of 41%, but the figure still represents a major headache for Irish Water.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) showed that in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, water distribution losses were over 29pc in 2013.

Leak analysis last February, July and December revealed around 18,000 cubic metres of water were lost each day.

Each cubic metre is equal to 1,000 litres of water. A toilet flush uses around nine litres.

The Commission for Energy Regulation is yet to set the domestic rate for water but the commercial rate in Dublin is €1.99 per cubic metre.

Spacemen trio returns to Earth in a Russian capsule

 

A Russian and an American returned to Earth on Wednesday with their Japanese commander aboard a Soyuz capsule in the first such landing since Moscow’s ties with the West imploded over Ukraine.

Koichi Wakata the first Japanese leader of an International Space Station mission NASA’s Rick Mastracchio and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin completed a 188-day stay that began months before Europe was thrown into its worst security crisis since the Cold War.

Ex-Soviet Ukraine has since seen a part of its territory seized by Kremlin forces and the West retaliate with sanctions that have prompted Russia — provider of the sole manned link to the orbiting laboratory — to question the wisdom of future cooperation in space.

A top Russian minister stepped up the rhetoric on Tuesday by warning that Moscow may reject Washington’s request to extend the station’s lifespan by four years until 2024.

The trio was all smiles on Wednesday as they clambered out of the conic capsule in their bulky space suits after touching down without mishap in the sand-swept steppe of Kazakhstan.

But Tyurin hinted of the overriding tensions by singing the praises of Russian space equipment that may one day slip out of Western hands.

“The landing was outstanding,” Tyurin said in comments broadcast on Russian state television.

“It was simply ideal. We do have some wonderful technology!”

The US ‘hopeful’ about cooperation:-

Moscow is fiercely proud of its rockets and still fetes its ability to trump the United States during the Soviet-era space race by putting the first man in orbit in 1961.

And a top minister in charge of the military-industrial complex warned that Moscow may strike back at new high-technology export restrictions that Washington imposed in retaliation at the Kremlin’s Ukrainian land grab by limiting US access to Russian space equipment.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that Russia was “planning to only need the ISS until 2020” and then spend funding “on other promising space projects.”

NASA had said in January it would like the orbiter’s lifespan extended in order to improve its marketability and chances of getting commercial investment in space.

The US government agency said only that it had “not received any official notification from the government of Russia on any changes in our space cooperation at this point.”

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki suggested that the United States might not be as reliant on Russia’s space technology as some in Moscow might like to think.

“We do have a number of materials of the same kind that we can use in the future,” she said.

Rogozin added on Tuesday that Moscow could also prohibit the United States from using a Russian engine crucial to some Pentagon launches of its military satellites.

Space expert Vadim Lukashevich of Moscow’s state-funded Skolkovo Foundation said the absence of Russia’s RD-180 engines could ground the US Defence Department Atlas V rocket for “two to three years”.

Yet Lukashevich noted that the RD-180 deal requires Russia to also disclose to the United States all the details of the engine’s design.

“So in three years, they will be able to develop their own engine and we will lose that market for good,” Lukashevich said in a telephone interview.

NASA hopes to keep the ISS spinning 400 kilometres (250 miles) above Earth a bit longer to help private US firms such as SpaceX upgrade rockets it now uses to ferry up cargo to also be able to accomodate astronauts.

The United States has relied on the Soyuz for all manned missions since retiring its Shuttle Programme in 2011.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 3rd March 2014.

HSE’s failure to implement findings in Portlaoise is totally unacceptable

 

Some 33 extra midwives are needed in Portlaoise hospital

The report by the Department of Health’s chief medical officer (CMO) into four perinatal deaths at Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise suggests the failures by the Health Service Executive are even greater than originally exposed by RTÉ’s Prime Time programme.

According to the Prime Time report, some of the babies died because of a failure to act on signs of foetal distress. An especially worrying aspect was how the investigation into baby Mark Molloy’s death discovered that recommendations made following the death of another baby at Portlaoise in almost identical circumstances two years previously had not been implemented.

We now learn from the chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, that the risk management resources at Portlaoise were downgraded from 2010. The network manager, general manager and risk manager who had dedicated time in the hospital (two days a week), retired. None of these was replaced.

As the CMO notes: “Dedicated access to this resource diminished from 2010 due to retirements and the broadening of the remit of this service to cover the entire Dublin Mid-Leinster region.”

A dedicated risk manager/ risk co-ordinator was not appointed until July/August 2013. In other words, some four years after all 32 midwives made their concerns about the safety of mothers and babies at the hospital formally known to management, the risk management resources at the hospital were significantly diluted. A hospital with a maternity unit known to be in serious difficulty was effectively stripped of risk management expertise.

“The lack of on-site expertise and poor tracking and monitoring systems for risk is unhelpful,” Dr Holohan states. Worryingly, he adds: “While systems have been strengthened recently, the overall picture is unsatisfactory and is not likely to be sustainable over time.”

Sustainable: Elsewhere, he says, “the Portlaoise Hospital Maternity Service cannot be regarded as safe and sustainable within its current governance arrangements as it lacks many of the important criteria required to deliver, on a stand-alone basis, a safe and sustainable maternity service”.

Will yesterday’s secondment of senior managers from else- where be enough to stabilise the unit? Can its inclusion in the governance structure of the Coombe hospital in Dublin ensure patient safety?

There must be a serious doubt that this is enough.

Without the immediate introduction of more staff in the unit, so there is a ratio of one midwife to 29.5 births – which according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation requires 33 extra midwives for Portlaoise – how can the HSE tell women due to give birth there that they are safe?

The track record of HSE failure to implement the findings of important investigations into critical incidents in our hospitals is unacceptable. And politicians must recognise that the reflex exercise of parish pump politics in campaigning against the closure of smaller hospital units may achieve a useful electoral aim, but may well put lives at risk.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny denies interest in European Council presidency

 

Kenny says he would be flattered if offered but his ‘mandate is here’ in Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has denied any interest in theEuropean Council presidency, saying he would not be tempted to accept the position should he be offered it when Herman Van Rompuy retires later this year.

Speaking on RTÉ television this afternoon, Mr Kenny said he would be flattered by the offer but his mandate is here in Ireland.

“I wouldn’t turn my back on the Irish,” he said.

“In politics you get an opportunity once in a lifetime to have the trust of the people to lead a government and lead a country back from an economic abyss. It is a great privilege. This government is working harder than any of its predecessors and that’s a requirement to keep up the momentum we have achieved.”

He said he was looking forward to contesting the next general election when Fine Gael’s time in Government “will be judged by the people”.

“Back to back [victories] would be great. It is not easy to achieve,” he said.

“If we fulfil our mandate of having sorted out our public finances, having got people back to work, and opportunities and hope for the young, we will fight a good case and will have a good story to tell.”

Irish Women now more likely to get a pay rise than men

 

New stats show that Irish women are less satisfied with their jobs.

Irish women are less likely than men to ask for a pay rise, but they are more likely to get one when they do, according to new research revealed to mark International Women’s Day today.

Statistics show that job satisfaction levels among women in this country are down on last year, in contrast with an almost identical rise in satisfaction among men.

Some 74% of Irish women, as against 68% of men, feel they are “successful or very successful” in their career right now, while 46% of women are satisfied in their current job situation in comparison to 38% of men, according to global research published by Accenture.

The report, Career Capital, highlights a decline in job satisfaction among women in the last year, compared with an improvement for men (down 6% for women, up 6% for men).

More women than men say they have taken on more responsibility in order to further their career.

Among friends and family, 60% of women talk about workload when discussing their careers – whereas 54% of men talk salary.

And while fewer women asked for pay raises – 40% of women, against 58% of men – a staggering 70% of those women who did ask were successful.

However, 10% fewer women asked for a pay rise last year than in the previous 12 months.

WORTH

Paula Neary, client director and accent on women lead at Accenture Ireland, believes the drop in job satisfaction levels is “highly likely” to be because despite putting more work in, women are failing to “knock on the door” and demand their true financial worth, and so feel more dispirited.

She said the study paints a picture of Irish women who are more confident and committed to their careers, who want to do well and feel good about their contribution to the workplace.

However, she said, the study points to the fact that women are not good at pushing themselves forward on pay rises.

In many cases, this can be because they feel bad about asking for a pay rise when they might have juggled their work hours to work around their family lives, she revealed.

Ms Neary argued that women’s performance should be measured on their value to the company and their output and not on “whether or not they work a four-day week”.

“Women may be contributing more than somebody who works traditional hours,” said Ms Neary.

Meanwhile, she said, employers can be blinded by the fact that women are working flexible hours and feel they should be satisfied with that, rather than measuring them on their true input, she added.

“Job satisfaction is linked to pay, so women end up being frustrated,” she said.

“The positive message out of this is that women have the skills. So we need to build on our skills and know our worth.”

Gerry Collins RIP passed away peacefully in his sleep “A happy man”

 

Gerry pictured with his daughter Ciara, wife Delly, son Stephen and daughter Lisa.

Gerry Collins of Greystones, who was the face of a national anti- smoking campaign, has died.Mr Collins (57), originally took part in a HSE anti smoking campaign in 2011 after overcoming throat cancer tree years earlier.

However, in June last year, Gerry was diagnosed with the disease for a second time, with doctors informing him he had terminal lung cancer and had less than a year to live.

After initially struggling with the news, Gerry eventually came to terms with the situation and got in contact with the HSE. He then agreed to became the face of a new campaign to highlight the dangers of smoking.

CAMPAIGN

The campaign, which included a number of ads depicting Gerry at family gatherings in his home as well as training at his local GAA club, was launched last December and he appeared on RTE’s Saturday Night Show last January to urge people to quit smoking.

Mr Collins is survived by his wife Delly and children Lisa, Ciara and Stephen.

His eldest daughter Lisa paid tribute to her father on Facebook saying: “Our Dad, Gerry Collins, passed away this morning peacefully in his sleep and a ‘happy man’.”

She said that the family were lucky enough to be there with him to hold his hand and say goodbye adding: “We love you dearly xxxx.”

At the launch of his campaign last year, Gerry said the ads were an opportunity to show the dangers of smoking and that he took solace from the fact he would be able to say goodbye to his family unlike those who die suddenly.

“I hope to continue in the fight against smoking,” he said in December. For me, it’s a nice legacy to leave behind.

“People who are killed in a car crash never get to say goodbye. I’ve an opportunity to say goodbye. As sad and all as it is for the family, they’re very lucky.

“If I can get through the day with a bit of peace and contentment every day, that’s good enough for me. If I can spend time with the kids, I’m happy with that.”

Speaking following news of Gerry’s passing, parish priest in Greystones Fr Liam Belton praised the advocate for his work in highlighting the dangers of smoking.

“The man has suffered but he certainly has been instrumental in bringing the dangers of smoking to the public’s attention,” he said. “The campaign certainly caught the attention of the people.

“I didn’t know him personally but we extend our great sympathy to all his family.”

He said Gerry’s abilities to communicate the effects of smoking were an important contribution in getting people to quit.

LENT

“It’s very sad because I understand there was going to be a big anti smoking launch on Ash Wednesday. Traditionally people in the Catholic Church give up something for Lent and cigarettes and drink used to be a great thing to give up.

“Certainly the ads were very good. I also saw him on a chat show programme on television. He was a very good communicator and has made a very important contribution in highlighting the seriousness of smoking.”

Meanwhile:

One in five (19%) of Irish people smoke but majority want to quit

 

Research for Irish Cancer Society shows 81% of smokers intend to give up.

The main reason given by smokers planning to quit was concern for their future health. The expense of tobacco was the second most frequently cited reason.

Almost one in five 20% of Irish people smoke, but more than 80% of smokers intend quitting – with more than half saying they plan to do so in the next three months – according to a recent survey.

An Ipsos MRBI survey of 1,000 people aged 15 or over, carried out on behalf of the Irish Cancer Society, found 19% of those surveyed were smokers.

However, 81% of that cohort said they planned to give up smoking in the future, with 57% of those who wish to quit saying they planned to do so within the next three months.

The main reason given by smokers planning to quit was concern for their future health, an incentive cited by 71% of smokers surveyed.

The expense of tobacco was the second most frequently cited reason with 31% of smokers saying that cost was a factor in their decision to give up tobacco.

When broadened to include non-smokers, the survey found that 62% of respondents were in favour of a price increase on cigarettes although, unsurprisingly, current smokers were significantly less likely to support a price hike.

The wider survey found that almost two-thirds, or 64%, of respondents were in favour of the introduction of plain packaging.

Plain packaging

A Bill on the introduction of plain packaging – which, if passed, will mean all tobacco packaging will be a uniform “dark, drab brown” colour, while brand names will have a uniform typeface, size and colour – is currently before the Dáíl. It has been strongly resisted by the tobacco industry which claims that it will make it easier for criminals to produce counterfeit products.

Yesterday, the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers’ Advisory Committee released the results of a study carried out for it by market research company MS Intelligence, which examined discarded tobacco packaging in 22 Irish towns and suburbs to ascertain whether Irish taxes had been paid on the products.

It found that a third of tobacco packaging discarded in three areas – Leixlip, Ennis and Tallaght – came from “non-Irish duty paid” products which encompasses tobacco produced legally in other counties and brought into Ireland either through legal means or through smuggling as well as counterfeit product.

An average of 28.3% of packaging – discarded on the street or disposed of in public bins collected in two separate two-week periods in the second and fourth quarters of 2013 – was “non-Irish duty paid”, according to the study.

A spokesman for the manufacturers’ advisory committee said tobacco control measures including the proposed plain packaging Bill were not addressing the “big problem . . . the ease of access to and availability of illegal tobacco”.

Speaking in the Dáil in January, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said an annual survey undertaken for Revenue by Ipsos MRBI in 2012 found 13% of cigarettes consumed in Ireland were illicit.

He said the survey methodology, unlike other methodologies such as empty-pack surveys, distinguished between legal personal imports and illicit cigarettes.

Galway based Senator Ronan Mullen’s tops donations list with €12,000 for 2013

 

Senator Ronan Mullen

The PRO-LIFE Senator Ronan Mullen received €12,000 in political donations last year, figures have revealed.

The independent senator led the case against the Government during the emotionally charged abortion debates and recently launched an election campaign for May’s European elections.

Details of the 43-year-old solicitor’s political donations were released by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

The records show he received 12 individual donations amounting to €1,000 each. One was received from an Irish citizen who is currently living in Florida. Mr Mullen did not respond to requests for comment.

In total, TDs, senators and MEPs disclosed donations with a total value of €17,000 for 2013.

Minister of State for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe received €1,000 from his local FG constituency executive in Dublin Central. He replaced Lucinda Creighton after she was ousted as a Junior Minister for voting against the Government on abortion legislation.

FF justice spokesman Niall Collins received a €1,000 donation, and Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy received €3,000.

Every Oireachtas member is required to furnish the Commission with a declaration by January 31 each year detailing any donation received.

44 cases in Ireland of racism and discrimination reported in the first two months of this year

   

Over half of the reports have been classed as ‘serious criminal offences’.

There has been a spike in the number of reported incidents of racism in the first two months of this year.

The figures, released by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, show that 44 people reported racism or discrimination in January and February this year, compared with just five in the same time-frame last year.

More than a quarter of cases involve the targeting of people in their homes or local community and over half have been classed as ‘serious criminal offences’.

Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council said the figures again show that there can be no complacency when it comes to racism and every opportunity should be used to assure victims that they have nothing to fear in coming forward.

““It is clear that racism is a reality which individuals and families are facing on a daily basis in Ireland. We have long suspected that official statistics were not giving an accurate picture of what is happening in our communities and the these figures confirm that.

“The increase of over 800% in reported cases when compared with the same two months last year follows extensive awareness campaigns by the Immigrant Council of Ireland on public transport, social media and on the airwaves.”

Charlton says that the idea that there are racist attacks in this day and age was ‘unacceptable’.

“55% of the cases we respond to fall into the category ‘serious criminal offence’. It is completely unacceptable that in Ireland 2014 people are lying awake in their beds fearing a noise in their back garden, that their home will be daubed with graffiti or that there will be a brick through their window.”

Northern lights spectacular aerial stunning photos of Aurora Borealis

Northern Lights show: A passenger captured this stunning image on board a BA flight over the Shetland Isles  

It’s a celestial phenomenon most photographers can spend years trying to capture. But passengers on board a BA flight across the UK were treated to a rare display of the Northern Lights, and were able to snap these incredible images from the plane windows.

The red, yellow and green lights were clearly visible in a spectacular display above the UK last week, with these photographs of the Aurora Borealis captured just off the coast of the Shetland Isles.

The flight was chartered by Aerobility, a charity that gives people with disability the chance to fly, and had 74 passengers on board, including BBC’s The Sky At Night presenters Pete Lawrence, Jon Culshaw and Dr Paul Abel.

Northern Lights show: A passenger captured this stunning image on board a BA flight over the Shetland Isles

The British Airways flight took off at 8.20pm last Thursday, and shortly after departure the cabin lights were turned off to help the passengers’ eyes adjust to the night sky.

The light show lit up skies as far south as Gloucestershire, Essex and Norfolk, the result of a strong magnetic storm – meaning the passengers were in a prime position to witness the display.

The aircraft returned to Gatwick at around midnight.

Night sky: The Northern Lights could be seen clearly above the UK, thanks to a strong magnetic storm

Usually visible in only the most northern parts of the UK, the Aurora Borealis could be seen in Glasgow, Orkney and Aberdeenshire in Scotland, at Preston in Lancashire and in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside.

It was due to a surge in geomagnetic activity, which led to them appearing much further south than usual.

The display occurs when explosions on the surface of the sun hurl huge amounts of charged particles into space, according to the British Geological Survey.

Those thrown towards Earth are captured by its magnetic field and guided towards the geomagnetic polar regions. Charged particles collide with gas molecules in the atmosphere, and the subsequent energy is given off as light.

News Ireland daily BLOG

Wednesday 12th February 2014

Enda Kenny claim Irish Income tax is too high

  

Taoiseach hints at rate cut in Budget for 2015

Income tax here is too high and a cut could be on the way in the next Budget, it was revealed today.

The Taoiseach has conceded the amount of cash docked from worker’s wages is excessive.

Mr Kenny’s admission could herald the first tax cuts since the recession struck in 2008.

He said: “We recognise that income tax levels are too high here. This is a priority for government, but you can only deliver it if you can actually pay for it.

“All of this will be taken into account as we prepare for the Budget for 2015.” The Coalition, especially the Labour party, has been coming under increasing pressure to help struggling middle-income families.

The disclosure this week that US multi-nationals might be paying less than 3% corporation tax will turn up the heat to deliver tax cuts.

Mr Kenny was speaking before an address to Ibec’s Chief Executive Officers conference at the Convention Centre in Dublin.

The Taoiseach told the American CNBC cable channel that creating new jobs was his Government’s top priority. He said he was hopeful 50,000 positions will be created this year and in 2015.

Ibec chief Danny McCoy called for the tax-cutting agenda to be fast-tracked.

He said: “Up to half the companies expect that they will be paying pay increases in 2014, but half still need wage freezes.

“We can’t have across-the-board wage demands, but we can certainly get disposable income increased by reducing those taxes.”

“At 52% we now have one of the highest marginal tax rates in the OECD, well above the average of 36%.”

Younger Irish children presenting with anorexia “Now more boys”

  

Children are presenting to hospital with anorexia nervosa at an earlier age and the condition is affecting an increasing number of boys, a new Irish study has found.

According to researchers, anorexia is a serious mental health illness that is best treated in the community. However if a person’s weight reaches a critically low level, they will require hospitalisation.

The 2002 Census estimated that some 2,400 teenage girls were affected. The average age of onset among them was 14. However other than this, there is very little published Irish data on the condition, so the researchers decided to investigate further.

They looked at all inpatients admitted to Temple Street Children’s Hospital with anorexia between 2005 and 2011.

They found that the average age of onset of the condition was 13.5 years, six months younger than the 2002 figures – this indicates that anorexia is presenting at an earlier age.

All of the patients came into hospital via the emergency department (ED). Almost two in three were self-referred, while the rest were referred by a GP.

Boys accounted for almost one in three admissions. However on admission, girls were found to be more underweight than boys even though they tended to present to hospital sooner than boys.

The most common features of the illness after low weight were over-exercising and food restriction. One in four patients were also known to have been vomiting. All of the girls who had reached puberty had amenorrhea (an absence of menstrual periods).

Overall, the hospital noted a big increase in the number of children presenting with anorexia over the last 10 years and this mirrors UK figures.

The high number of boys presenting is also in line with recent research which indicates a higher prevalence among males.

The fact that girls tend to present to hospital sooner suggests that there is better awareness and detection in girls.

The researchers expressed concern that ‘the overall mean age of onset was estimated at six months prior to seeking treatment’. They pointed out that the longer it takes to get treated, the worse the prognosis.

Early detection and treatment within the community is more preferable to hospitalisation later, they said.

Meanwhile, the study also noted that the average length of stay in hospital is over five weeks. This is expensive and requires many resources, such as specialist staff training.

The researchers added that the increase in children presenting with anorexia has important implications for community and hospital services. They emphasised that the new national children’s hospital, which is to be built on the grounds of St James’s Hospital in Dublin, will require dedicated beds and specialist staff to deal with this serious issue.

Superquinn stores to be renamed SuperValu by Musgrave’s

 

Musgraves are to merge 24 Superquinn shops with SuperValu from tomorrow.

It has been in business for 54 years, but the Superquinn brand will be checking out of the Irish grocery market for good tomorrow.

Cork wholesale group Musgrave, which acquired the business for €229 million in October 2011, has decided to ditch the Superquinn name and rebrand its supermarkets under the SuperValu banner.

All 24 Superquinn stores will be renamed as SuperValu from tomorrow, consigning the Superquinn name to grocery chain heaven.

SuperValu managing director Martin Kelleher said the name change follows an “excellent performance” by SuperValu over the Christmas period when it was the top performing supermarket with its market share increasing to 20.1 per cent for the last 12 weeks of 2013.

“Since announcing our plans to rename Superquinn as SuperValu in August, the consumer response has been very positive demonstrating that both brands are better together,” he added.

The expanded SuperValu network will now consist of 223 stores with a turnover of €2.6 billion and 14,500 employees.

SuperValu is also currently implementing a €20 million in-store investment programme which will see the former Superquinn network upgraded with a new focus on service, range, quality and value. This is in addition to €10 million invested during 2013.

Retire your robots and free the poor people

 

The prospect of far better lives depends on how the gains are produced and distributed

In 1955, Walter Reuther, head of the US car workers’ union, told of a visit to a new automatically operated Ford plant.

Pointing to all the robots, his host asked: “How are you going to collect union dues from those guys?” Mr Reuther replied: “And how are you going to get them to buy Fords?” Automation is not new. Neither is the debate about its effects. How far, then, does what Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee call The Second Machine Age alter the questions or the answers?

I laid out the core argument last week. I noted that the rise of information technology coincides with increasing income inequality. Lawrence Mishel of the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute challenges the notion that the former has been the principal cause of the latter.

Mishel notes: “Rising executive pay and the expansion of, and better pay in, the financial sector can account for two-thirds of increased incomes at the top.”

Changing social norms, the rise of stock-based remuneration and the extraordinary expansion of the financial sector also contributed. While it was a factor, technology has not determined economic outcomes.

Yet technology could become far more important. Brynjolfsson and McAfee also argue that it will make us more prosperous; and it will shift the distribution of opportunities among workers and between workers and owners of capital.

The economic impacts of new technologies are many and complex. They include: new services, such as Facebook; disintermediation of old systems of distribution via iTunes or Amazon; new products, such as smartphones; and new machines, such as robots. The latter awaken fears that intelligent machines will render a vast number of people redundant. A recent paper by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University concludes that 47 per cent of US jobs are at high risk from automation.

Computer capital

In the 19th century, they argue, machines replaced artisans and benefited unskilled labour. In the 20th century, computers replaced middle-income jobs, creating a polarised labour market. Over the next decades, however, “most workers in transport and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labour in production occupations, are likely to be substituted by computer capital”.

Moreover, “computerisation will mainly substitute for low-skill and low-wage jobs in the near future. By contrast, high-skill and high-wage occupations are the least susceptible to computer capital.” This, then, would exacerbate inequality.

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University even argue that the rise in productivity might make future generations worse off in aggregate.

The replacement of workers by robots could shift income from the former to the robots’ owners, most of whom will be retired and are assumed to save less than the young. This would lower investment in human capital because the young could no longer afford to pay for it; and in machines because savings in this economy would fall.

The argument that a rise in potential productivity would make us permanently worse off is ingenious. More plausible, to me at least, are other possibilities: there could be a large adjustment shock as workers are laid off; the market wages of unskilled people might fall far below a socially acceptable minimum; and, combined with other new technologies, robots might make the distribution of income far more unequal than it is already.

Is water flowing on the red planet Mars? Maybe say scientists.

 

A NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars has spotted signs that water might be flowing just below the Red Planet’s surface.

New clues are emerging about the mysterious streaks that appear on Mars’ surface during warm weather, though scientists still can’t say for sure that they’re caused by flowing water.

The marks, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), snake down some crater walls and other inclines when the mercury rises on the Red Planet. New research finds seasonal changes in iron minerals at RSL sites, suggesting that brines containing an iron antifreeze may flow there from time to time — but direct evidence of water remains elusive.

“We still don’t have a smoking gun for existence of water in RSL, although we’re not sure how this process would take place without water,” Lujendra Ojha, a graduate student at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, lead author of two recent RSL studies, said in a statement. (Ojha discovered the RSL in 2011, while an undergraduate at the University of Arizona.) [Photos: The Search for Water on Mars]

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Ojha and his colleagues studied images of 13 RSL sites taken by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), an instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). They saw relatively high concentrations of iron minerals at most of the sites.

“Just like the RSL themselves, the strength of the spectral signatures varies according to the seasons,” Ojha said. “They’re stronger when it’s warmer and less significant when it’s colder.”

Many scientists think the recurring slope lineae are created by water flowing just beneath the Martian surface. This water — which would leave the iron antifreezes and other minerals in its wake — likely contains salts that lower its freezing point significantly, allowing it to stay liquid despite frigid Red Planet temperatures.

While the researchers didn’t see any spectral signatures of water in the CRISM images, that doesn’t rule out the substance’s presence at RSL sites, scientists said.

For example, the observations were made exclusively in the afternoon and thus could have missed surface water appearing in the morning. Further, each CRISM image observed a large area, possibly making it tough to spot signs of water in the narrow RSL streaks.

The researchers reported these results late last year in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. In another study, due out next month in the journal Icarus, a team led by Ojha analyzed pictures snapped by MRO and NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, looking for patterns in RSL formation on the Red Planet.

The team found 200 locations where conditions seemed ideal for seasonal streaks — areas in the southern mid-latitudes with rocky cliffs — but found only 13 with actual RSL marks.

“The fact that RSL occur in a few sites and not others indicates additional unknown factors such as availability of water or salts may play a crucial role in RSL formation,” Ojha said.